More Than a Meal Program Connects Individuals in Need to Free Restaurant Meals

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
More Than a Meal

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: More Than a Meal

Overview: More Than a Meal, powered by Feed Forward, uses a web-based platform to connect New Yorkers in need to meals from local restaurants and food providers. 

Location: New York City

Population: 8.2 million 

Food policy category: Food security

Program goals: To increase food access for those in need. 

How it works: More Than a Meal is run by Feed Forward, a collective dedicated to creating a better food economy.  

Individuals must register to become meal recipients and answer questions regarding their needs and preferences. Currently, there are no eligibility requirements. An eligibility screen will be implemented later in 2022 requiring users to provide additional details after a certain amount of usage of the service that is still to be determined. Once registered, recipients can use the website or app to select the restaurant from which they will order, choose their meal, and schedule a time to either pick up the order or have it delivered. 

Meals are provided at no cost to the recipient but are capped at four meals per week. However, Feed Forward works with restaurants to create value menu items so that the same meals available to More Than a Meal recipients are always available at an affordable cost for the general public.

The program is currently available only from eight participating providers in Brooklyn and Manhattan. As More Than a Meal receives additional funding and more restaurants become participants the program will be able to serve more meal recipients.

Progress to date: More Than a Meal began in May 2021, running on a voucher system rather than the technology platform it runs on now. The tech platform launched in August 2021, and an updated version will launch in February 2022. 

Why it is important: Food insecurity currently affects 1.5 million individuals, including more than 462,000 children in New York City, a 46 percent increase from pre-pandemic rates. Individuals who take advantage of emergency food services are often judged and stigmatized, and for those reasons, some may choose not to utilize the services to which they are entitled. More Than a Meal allows those

in need to maintain their dignity by ordering their free meals online and picking them up at the restaurant just like any paying customer. 

Program/Policy initiated: More Than a Meal started in May 2021. 

Point of contact: 
Meg Savage, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer, Feed Forward
Phone: 347-243-4195

Similar practices: Help Kitchen is a similar program currently operating in San Francisco, CA, Detroit, MI, Tacoma, WA, and Aurora, CO, that connects food-insecure individuals to restaurants providing free meals. 

Evaluation: More Than a Meal has served more than 100,000 meals to date, with 500 active participants and 1,000 on the waitlist. Feed Forward reports that there is a high demand for the program, and its stigma-free approach and culturally diverse offerings factor significantly into its overall appeal. 

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