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Wasted no more: App finds homes for leftovers

Think of it as Uber for leftovers. Instead of ordering a personal ride, imagine a lift to run unused meals to a local food bank.

Think of it as Uber for leftovers.

Instead of ordering a personal ride, imagine a lift to run unused meals to a local food bank.

The Food Connect app, launched Friday by Food Connect and other local antihunger organizations, was created as a solution to the massive food waste anticipated during the Democratic National Convention. The app is available for download on iTunes and the Google Play store.

Starting Saturday, restaurants, caterers, and anyone who has food to donate can download the app, enter their location and a pickup time, and have their extra food picked up by a car, van, or truck, depending on the size of the donation. The donation will then be taken to food banks and shelters around the area.

Pickups are limited to Philadelphia. Recipients, unlike donors, have to register on the Food Connect website in advance to receive donations. Donations are tax-deductible. And, according to the apps' creators, donors are not liable should their food cause harm to recipients, under the 1996 Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.

Although the initiative, dubbed Operation Food Rescue, was launched in preparation for the convention, its creators hope it is used into the future.

Food Connect has been delivering food donations through its website since late 2014. It has been a small-scale operation with between 10 to 15 volunteers. The app is the result of a collaboration among several Philadelphia organizations, including the Mayor's Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, Philabundance, and the Share Food Program, said Megha Kulshreshtha, founder of Food Connect and a real estate investor.

"It really came down to combining resources without being redundant with the efforts," she said. "We are leveraging all of Philadelphia's antihunger organization resources."

Kulshreshtha said that since its inception, Food Connect has worked with roughly 10 to 15 regular donors and a handful of one-time donors. She estimates the organization has "rescued" more than 7,000 pounds of food, or around 5,000 to 6,000 meals. Every time someone uses the app, participating organizations will receive a notification and decide which resources would best fit the situation - say, using one of Philabundance's trucks for several pallets of food.

Beth Broady, spokeswoman for the Share Food Program, said the idea for the app sprang from Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia last year. Although many wanted to donate, coordination was messy, she said.

"We were able to do a lot of great food recovery, but we didn't put in the effort ahead of time to pre-make connections," Broady said.

Harry Hayman, a manager for restaurateurs Robert and Benjamin Bynum, who own Warmdaddy's, Green Soul, and Relish, said the restaurants he works with have used the Food Connect website since 2014, and plan to utilize the app.

Food Connect "is filling a void that we've always felt in the restaurant business, knowing there's a tremendous waste associated with food," he said. "We're excited to be involved."

215-854-2602 @oliviaexstrum