Maria Rose Belding has created something that has helped feed millions in America, and it could definitely help feed the homeless in Myrtle Beach, as well as the hungry all around Horry County and the State of South Carolina. Back in 2015, she created what is called the MEANS app, which stands for Matching Excess And Need for Stability. Basically, it’s an easy-to-use app that helps businesses quickly donate food to the nearby charities and non-profits that need it. Maria used to work in a church pantry that had excess food in it that would expire, which made her passionate about finding a way to get this very edible food to those who need nourishment the most. She was featured on CNN Heroes, and I encourage all of you to vote for her to win CNN Hero of the Year at this link. This courageous young lady truly deserves to win. So please, take a moment to vote for Maria Rose Belding.
I had a similar experience when I was working in a restaurant that wasted lots of food that I always knew could go to feed the homeless in South Carolina, specifically in the Florence area. Back in the early 2000’s, I used to work in Florence at a restaurant called Ryan’s (the actual building is now a different restaurant that serves Chinese food). Anyway, it was located on Highway 52, and anybody who knows anything about Ryan’s knows that they have one of the most delicious buffets out there. At the time, I was working as a server on the evening shift. At the end of the night, there was always a lot of food on the buffet that went uneaten by the restaurant guests every evening.
Some of the supervisors would let us take some of the food home in to-go plates. But much of the food that was left on the buffet had to be thrown away out in the back dumpster, all because it wasn’t fit to be sold the next day. All the little chicken drumlets roast beef, fish, veggies, cakes…everything! Over the years, I worked at even more restaurants that threw away massive amounts of good, edible food, and I always thought to myself “What a waste…there are people starving out there, and we’re throwing all this away.”
I found out later on that the reason many of the establishments did this is because they’d be held responsible if someone was to, say, get sick from eating unsellable food. But, just because food can’t be sold doesn’t mean that it isn’t completely safe to eat, especially if it was cooked just hours before. I found out about the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Act when I was reading the CNN article on Maria Rose Belding’s MEANS app. It’s the Act that she and her organization depend on that protects those who want to donate safe and edible food to charity.
According to Feeding America, an organization whose mission is to “feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks”, the Act was signed by President Bill Clinton on the first day of October back in 1996, and its purpose was to “encourage donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need”. It basically protects businesses from liability when they are donating food to local non-profits. For example, one organization that helps feed the low-income and homeless in Myrtle Beach is Helping Hand on Joe White Avenue. I’m going to be going around Horry County in the coming weeks to organizations like this, as well as restaurants and resorts in the area that very likely throw lots of good, edible food away, probably on a daily basis.
The key to getting the word out about wonderful things like the MEANS app is being proactive in making the local business owners aware of it. Maria Rose Belding’s organization has already found a home for almost two million pounds of food in just the past few years, and I will be doing all I can to keep that great run going. I’m going to try and get much of the otherwise wasted food around Horry County to the non-profits that are constantly doing all they can to feed those currently living in poverty in the area, as well as the Myrtle Beach homeless population.