Why was it important to build a FoodFinder app? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Jack Griffin, Founder/CEO at FoodFinder, on Quora:

After nearly a decade leading FoodFinder and serving those who’ve used our food pantry locator, I have found that it’s incredibly difficult to find reliable information on food pantries for 3 main reasons:

#1: Food pantries don’t have the money to properly raise awareness of their services. Since food pantries are where free food is given out to those in need, knowledge of precisely when and where that food is given out is critical. Feeding America and its 200 regional food banks have million-dollar ad budgets, but these organizations are not where hungry families can turn to for food. The onus of marketing where billions of free meals are actually available falls to the food pantries themselves, despite having the smallest budgets and smallest digital footprints of the entire supply chain.

#2: A Google search is not sufficient to provide a food insecure family with a clear place and time to show up to receive food aid. This barrier is especially impactful given how online search volumes for food pantries have soared in recent years. Between 2016 and 2020, Google searches of “food pantry near me” increased 620% from 919,000 to 6.6 million. It’s very common, however, for food pantries to be labeled as “ministries” or “missions” when operated out of churches. As a result, generic Google searches for food pantries omit them entirely since they aren’t labeled as such. And for the locations that are labeled as food pantries, an address or phone number may be all that’s given.

#3: Existing alternatives to Barriers #1 & #2 fall well short of being effective, scalable solutions in terms of both their practicality and their information quality. The most notable are help hotlines like United Way’s 211 as well as other food pantry aggregators like Food Pantries | Soup Kitchens | Food Banks. On hundreds of occasions our own users have affirmed how frustrated they are with the outdated 211 help hotline – they tried getting help from 211 first but weren’t able to and found us instead. And for other aggregator websites, their information is hardly maintained, limited in geographic scope, or both.

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What do these barriers add up to? A fight against hunger that is fragmented, inefficient, and difficult to navigate. Why does this matter? If the millions of Americans experiencing food insecurity today who didn’t pre-COVID & pre-inflation don’t know where food is offered, they cannot and will not receive that help.

We built FoodFinder to bridge this gap and connect the people looking for help with the places that offer it. After growing it for more than 8 years, FoodFinder is currently a national nonprofit organization whose website and mobile app help food insecure Americans find and get help from their closest food pantries.

FoodFinder has already served 1.5 million people who’ve turned to our food pantry locator for help, including 1.2 million who used our service just in the past 2 years with COVID & inflation. In just our home town of Atlanta, we’ve connected 31,790 residents to free food information in the past 6 months in the wake of skyrocketing costs, and that number grows to nearly 90,000 Metro Atlanta residents that we’ve served since COVID hit 2 years ago.

We’ve come a long way, but we know there’s an immense amount of work left to be done. If you’d like to learn more about our cause, check out the About Us page of our website. If you’d like to directly support our ability to connect hungry families to free food, make a donation on our online Donation Portal (it means the world to us and the people we serve)!

Thank you for reading and thank you for your support!

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

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