Hunger: Not Impossible (H:NI) is on a mission to create a world where no one worries about where their next meal will come from. 37 million Americans struggle with hunger every day, yet the United States produces more food than is needed for domestic consumption. COVID-driven unemployment has further disrupted food security and restaurants are struggling. The need to feed underserved families and keep the food-service industry in operation is more important than ever. Providing low-friction, stigma-free access to nutritious meals while supporting local restaurants, H:NI has the potential to drive positive health and economic outcomes and side-step systemic issues that plague our most vulnerable communities.
Existing solutions to the hunger crisis rely on archaic, inefficient, and, in many situations, impractical approaches. Food banks have limited hours of operation and locations, rely on an army of volunteers, and require significant overhead costs. Stigma and bias are also frustrating barriers. Many people lack access, or avoid, food pantries and food banks based on the limits of time, lack of access to transportation, or an internalized motivation to suffer through food insecurity to avoid stigma. Food insecurity is a complex problem affecting people above and below the poverty line who are confronted with a lack of resources or access that limits their ability to meet their or their family’s basic needs. At the same time, over 96% of Americans own a cell phone. Hunger: Not Impossible committed leveraged technology to change the way the underserved can access food.
The vision for H:NI has always been to build a text-based service that connects people in need of food with prepaid, nutritious, to-go meals from nearby restaurants - this vision was fully realized and made possible via H:NI's partnership with technology pioneers Salesforce and Postmates. H:NI is a platform, not a food charity, and is structured to empower community based organizations’ (CBOs) existing efforts to support individuals and families, allowing the tactical support of people experiencing food insecurity. H:NI partners with these CBOs, tapping into their existing connection to their communities.
How it works:
An individual enrolls in H:NI via text message through a community organization
Participant texts “Hungry” to the H:NI text service when they want to order a meal
The H:NI platform responds via text with a choice of nearby restaurants and available menu items, focused on healthier options
Participant chooses their meal and the order is confirmed by the restaurant
Participant picks up their meal at no personal cost
H:NI integrates with Postmates’ ordering systems so that the order is treated like any other pick-up order, providing a stigma-free interaction.
H:NI’s product strategy includes integrating Salesforce technology with customer service to deliver a seamless solution to participants and community organizations. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, H:NI has rapidly-deployed in 6 US cities and continues to expand. H:NI also partnered with the Wasserman talent agency and connected with celebrity athletes, influencers, and their networks to raise funds via a social media and donation campaign to help feed food insecure kids and families while keeping restaurants, especially in at-risk communities, from going out of business during the public health and economic crisis. Some of the biggest evangelists and well-known participants include stars like Megan Rapinoe (NWLS), Klay Thompson (NBA), Sue Bird (WNBA), Alex Morgan (NWLS) and Alex Caruso (NBA). Their personal commitment and promotion to their audiences drove mission-critical program donations.
Active programs and partnerships with local and national CBOs include the Boys and Girls Club, Foster Nation, Year Up, The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and the City of Santa Monica.
Communities currently being served include:
At risk, college-aged young adults, who have aged out of the foster care system and are on their own. Many are in school, have jobs, are trying to support a family, live in their cars or “couch surf”. H:NI represents a reliable hot meal, which can feel more life-changing than those of us privileged with food security can imagine.
Low income families who are working multiple jobs but often do not have enough money to feed everyone in their family consistently. HNI is supplemental service to address this gap.
H:NI’s technology platform connects disparate parts of a complex ecosystem in a way that can provide impact immediately and does not require the value-chain to change:
Participants don’t need to visit a website or download a mobile app.
Options are broad and restaurants receive orders via existing channels.
CBO program managers now have a scalable text message relationship with the population they serve.
With a native reach of over 15MM+ and an additional earned reach of 16MM+ during our month-long social media campaign, our efforts over-performed given that H:NI spent zero marketing dollars on these efforts. This reach drove social media promotion as well as news coverage, ongoing integration into our influencers’ social media shows, meme challenges, etc.
Transparently, these aren’t the metrics we ultimately measure success by. Success comes with each convenient, stigma-free, nutritious meal that ends up in the hands of those in-need. Our entire tool is about taking available funds and plugging them directly into where they can make a meaningful, immediate impact on someone's life. If one doesn't have enough to eat, every other priority feels secondary. Within weeks of the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, H:NI was operationalized in 6 cities across the US and continues to grow rapidly. The first week of September saw the 30,000th meal provided on the H:NI platform which is currently facilitating 2,500 meals per week. These programs are built to last and grow, allowing the campaign to have lasting, rather than “disposable”, impact.
Tangible results include:
Participants worry significantly less about daily food access
Improved mental health - feeling cared about by others, motivation to keep going, more energy and concentration to complete schoolwork and job duties, greater autonomy
One can prioritize paying rent and bills over buying food
Participants feel motivated to give back when they have the means
CBOs are able to directly support their communities with access to food