An influential state trade organization with roots dating to 1916 has teamed up with Missouri’s fastest-growing charity tech startup.
For the Missouri Restaurant Association (MRA), the wellbeing of its member restaurants depends on the wellbeing of the communities they serve. That’s why the trade association recently announced a partnership with GiftAMeal to bring the Missouri-based hunger-fighting app to restaurants across the state.
The premise of the GiftAMeal app is simple: customers take photos of their purchases from partner restaurants, and for each photo taken, a donation is made to provide a meal’s worth of groceries through a local food bank. If a photo is shared on social media, another donation is made. Over 250 restaurants currently participate, and the program and its 40,000 app users have helped provide over 650,000 meals to those in need in Missouri. The program is funded by restaurants, who pay a flat monthly subscription to participate as a mix of marketing and giving back. As part of newly-announced partnership, MRA member restaurants will receive a discounted rate to join (details here: www.giftameal.com/mra).
GiftAMeal’s donations support local hunger-relief nonprofits: Operation Food Search in St. Louis and Harvesters - the Community Food Network in Kansas City. In Missouri, a state where 1 in 4 children now face food insecurity, the work being done by restaurants through programs like GiftAMeal is especially meaningful.
Kristen Wild, Executive Director of Operation Food Search, lauded the program: “GiftAMeal is engaging a caring community during a crucial time when even more people are experiencing food insecurity due to the pandemic.” She continued, “GiftAMeal plays a key role in helping Operation Food Search fulfill its mission of healing hunger. The donations made through GiftAMeal have allowed us to expand our reach, providing more people with access to healthy food. We are very grateful to GiftAMeal, its users, and its partner restaurants for advancing our cause.”
Valerie Nicholson-Watson, President and CEO of Harvesters, echoed this sentiment: "Every donation really makes a difference to help feed our hungry neighbors. We appreciate the support of GiftAMeal and the Missouri Restaurant Association in helping us succeed in our mission to feed hungry people today and work to end hunger tomorrow."
For their part, the Missouri Restaurant Association is no stranger to giving back — its ProStart Program touches the lives of thousands of teens every year, providing them with valuable skills, mentorship, and industry guidance by experts.
Bob Bonney, CEO of the Missouri Restaurant Association, believes that the same spirit of generosity will animate widespread adoption of the GiftAMeal program. Bonney explained the motivation behind the partnership, which he called a “no-brainer”:
“Our restaurants tie together the communities that they serve — it’s more than just food. It’s about trust, it’s about being there. Think of all the families they serve, all the communities. It’s extraordinary how food brings people together. With GiftAMeal, we’re excited to have a way to take that impact and spread the joy around. It’s easy for our restaurants to participate, and it gets the customers involved in a way that’s free for them and very enjoyable.”
Andrew Glantz, Founder and CEO of GiftAMeal, expressed his elation at the support of the statewide association:
“We’re so grateful to be teaming up with the MRA, an organization that has done so much good for the restaurant industry, its people, and communities throughout Missouri! With their support we can make our program available as affordably and broadly as possible. Without a doubt, the vocal support of the MRA will be instrumental as we go after our next goal of 1 million meals provided.”
Glantz said that his goal with creating GiftAMeal was to create a “turn-key give-back program” that could “make it easy for any restaurant to become a social enterprise.” And when you look at the success of the program, more popular now than ever before, it’s clear that he’s onto something.
Bill Teel, Executive Director of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association (a local chapter of the MRA), explained part of this appeal:
“We’re excited to be partnering with GiftAMeal in Kansas City because it feels like a gift all around: to the community, to the customers who get to use the app and just be a part of making a difference at no cost to them. Our restaurants are always looking for ways to stand out, and ways to do good. GiftAMeal is a natural fit and the impact is all local. Customer support in Kansas City goes directly to Harvesters, an incredible organization performing crucial work in our region.”
The benefits of giving back are similarly clear to Meegan Whitehead, President of the Greater St. Louis Restaurant Association. “Customers love it and it gets them talking and sharing their experiences. It’s marketing by doing good, and I love seeing the impact add up month after month.” Whitehead has long been a supporter of GiftAMeal through her management of Anthonino’s Taverna, one of the earliest restaurants to participate in the program. “Compared to traditional advertising, there’s just so much value — AND it feeds people. Even though it’s just a small part of a marketing budget, it’s the part that I feel most excited to spend. And I love seeing the photos shared on social media… it really shows that our customers care a ton about their community.”
“There’s no doubt that restaurant customers care about their communities” agreed Bonney, who looks forward to the success of the program. “It’s inspiring to see what we can do when we make it easy for people to care.”
To celebrate the launch of the partnership and in honor of the work that the MRA has done for families and small businesses in Missouri, GiftAMeal will be donating to the MRA Education Fund for every MRA member establishment that joins the GiftAMeal platform. For more information, see www.giftameal.com/mra.