The next time you watch someone at a restaurant whip out a cell phone to take a picture of their meal don’t be so quick to roll your eyes, it could be for a good cause.
The person might be using ShareUrMeal, a Philadelphia-based service that allows users to post picture of meals. For every picture shared, one of ShareUrMeal’s sponsors donates one dollar to hunger relief causes through the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
“As people lose their homes they lose their kitchen tables,” says founder and Philly-native Devon Perry. “I really like the idea of neighbors helping neighbors, and, through ShareUrMeal, you can help your neighbor by simply sharing a picture of your dinner and at the same time stay grateful for the food you have.”
The idea for ShareUrMeal blossomed out of a Perry family tradition, and sharing snapshots has become a mealtime habit for over 300 ShareUrMeal members since the site launched in October of last year.
“My uncles moved all over the country, and we would call them and speak with our mouths full of food from Philadelphia,” Perry remembers. “We would tease them and say things like ‘mmmâ€¦this soft pretzel is so good!’.”
As technology improved, so did the methods of family teasing. Soon Perry and her family were sending picture messages and emails of their Philly food favorites.
“I was thinking that if we can take something like this family habit and turn it into a mealtime habit for everyone, it can maybe start to help with the 70 percent increase in demand on hunger relief organizations,” says Perry.
Perry, who works for the United Way, began reaching out to Philly tech groups she was part of, including Indy Hall and Philly Startup Leaders, and she quickly connected with Randy Schmidt, a fellow foodie with a pension for giving back, who helped get the tech off the ground.
Shortly after, Perry and Schmidt partnered with the United Way, which is a supporter of the Share food pantry system and the Coalition Against Hunger, and began planning their kick-off event at the Academic Bistro at Drexel University.
The ShareUrMeal kickoff drew over 100 attendees, and Drexel became ShareUrMeal’s first sponsor, donating $2,500 to the United Way.
Because Perry, Schmidt and the rest of the ShareUrMeal team donate the time spent on the site, every dollar donated to go directly to those in need.
Since getting started, ShareUrMeal has launched its own iPhone app, received over 4,000 meal pictures and donated $14,000 to hunger relief, and with the site’s first anniversary right around the corner, there are some big plans in the works.
The site recently added posting to Twitter, and posting to Facebook is coming soon.
A comment feature and “leader board” are also in the works, which will allow frequent users to communicate about their pantry pics and see who is most active on the site.
“The plans we have all relate to making the site interesting to look at so people stay on the site for a while longer and eventually turn into users,” says Schmidt. “So far there have been a lot more donations than people posting. So that’s kind of a communication problem we need to work out.”
ShareUrMeal’s first anniversary event, which will be hosted by Williams-Sonoma at the Bellvue on October 6, will surely help spread the word. Like the first event at Drexel, ShareUrMeal will invite local foodies, critics and bloggers, but this year Perry hopes to reach out to fellow startups as ShareUrMeal sponsors.
“ShareUrMeal is perfect for tech startups, because there’s such a big bang for each buck,” says Perry. “Every time they donate one dollar their logo appears next to a picture on the site, which is great because startups don’t typically have a lot to designate for philanthropy.”-30-
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