Smartphone Apps That Use Social Media and Crowdsourcing for Good

by Cameron St. Germain

In the world of food policy, social media and crowdsourcing are now playing a bigger role than ever before. Sixty percent of U.S. diners look at food photos on social media, and 75 percent have chosen a place to eat because of those photos, according to Zagat’s National Dining Trends Survey. When implemented correctly, social media and crowdsourcing can have a positive impact on our food system. The NYC Food Policy Center has compiled a list of 13 promising apps and technologies to that use social media and crowdsourcing for good.


What it does: This site is a collection of recipes from users that can be accessed, rated, and shared by the public.

How it works: Users can submit their own recipes or search for recipes submitted by other users. The search function allows users to indicate specific ingredients to include or exclude from a recipe in the search results. Each recipe has a profile of ratings that determines how high it ranks on the search results page.

Why it’s interesting: Users can easily share recipes with each other and they are sorted by popularity and type.

What can be learned from the site: Allowing users to rate recipes improves the likelihood that individuals searching for recipes will find ones that are popular and tested.

Created by: David Quinn, Carl Lipo, Mark Madsen, Michael Pfeffer, Dan Shepherd, and Tim Hunt


Cost: Free

Future of the site: As the base of users continues to grow, so will the amount and variety of recipes available.

Amp Your Good

What it does: This organization reimagines traditional food drives by creating crowd-feeding drives that allow perishable foods to be donated online.

How it works: Amp Your Good provides a platform to host crowd-feeding drives where individuals can donate by purchasing items available on the site. Amp Your Good then delivers the food to the organization in need. Individuals simply pick out the items online and Amp Your Good delivers them.

Why it’s interesting: It solves some of the major limitations of traditional food drives, such as the need to collect nonperishable items and the factor of proximity to the physical event.

What can be learned from the organization:  Using technology to create virtual food drives can be a more effective use of resources.

Created by: Patrick O’Neill


Cost: Free

Future of the organization: The model could eventually be made self-sufficient so that organizations can create and promote their own virtual food drives through the Amp Your Good platform.


What it does: This site compiles local and sustainable businesses and food projects for users to discover and share.

How it works: Users browse food businesses, farms, and restaurants, and save or share their favorites. Users can create collections to categorize certain projects for visiting in the future, or share them with others.

Why it’s interesting: This site functions as database for sustainable food projects.

What can be learned from the site: Showcasing sustainable food projects in an accessible way can make individuals more likely to know of and support them.

Created by: Eileen Gordon


Cost: Free

Future of the site: The amount of featured products can continue to grow.

Circle Up

What it does: This investment marketplace allows investors to invest in consumer and retail companies to provide funding for entrepreneurs looking to start their business.

How it works: Entrepreneurs looking for funding can join the site to find investors and partners, as well as to learn about how to help their company thrive.

Why it’s interesting: Instead of relying on funds from banks or the general public, this site collects money from experienced investors who can provide insight for the business owners.

What can be learned from the site: Working with experienced investors who have significant capital can be more effective and efficient than looking for donations from the public.

Created by: Ryan Caldbeck and Rory Eakin


Cost: Varies (Not readily available to the public)

Future of the site: As the pool of investors and entrepreneurs grows, the likelihood of launching innovative and successful businesses grows as well.


What it does: CrowdFooding is the world’s first collaborative platform for the food and drink industry – they bring together food entrepreneurs, passionate foodies and established food organisations to create meaningful relationships and foster food innovation.

How it works: Entrepreneurs can raise money and pre-sell products to launch their business with a strong foundation. Investors can pledge money in exchange for rewards from the business or invest directly.

Why it’s interesting: This takes the model of crowdfunding from popular sites like GoFundMe and applies it specifically to food businesses.

What can be learned from the site: Finding a specific niche for crowdfunding efforts can allow more targeted outreach.

Created by: Alessio D’Antino, Sara Roversi, and Andrea Magelli


Cost: Free to register

  1. Investors pay: CrowdFooding does not require investors to pay for pledges – they only have to pay the payment provider fees, which is approximately 3%, depending on where the payment comes from.
  2. Entrepreneurs pay: A £2,000 completion fee is applied only to companies looking for equity investments; for rewards crowdfunding campaigns, CrowdFooding collects a 5% fee of all funds collected. A £150 fee is charged for the sales booster campaign, which allows companies to sell their products directly on CrowdFooding’s platform.

Future of the site: The site can expand and perfect its algorithms to better predict successful food businesses.

inKind (previously EquityEats)

What it does: This site allows users to invest in restaurants and gain rewards.

How it works: Individuals can invest in the restaurant in exchange for gift cards to spend at the restaurant. Restaurants can sign up to raise funds from their community.

Why it’s interesting: The company aims to reduce the high rate of failure restaurants experience by providing significant funding and community support.   

What can be learned from the site: Using a crowdfunding platform can allow individuals to invest in restaurants without having to be accredited investors.  

Created by: Johann Moonesinghe

Website: (previously

Cost: Investors pay amounts requested by the restaurant.

Future of the site: As the site expands, more restaurants will learn about the concept and may sign up.


What it does: Feedie allows people to feed impoverished children in South Africa by sharing photos of their food.

How it works: Diners link the Feedie app to their social networks, visit a participating restaurant, and use the app to share a photo of their meal. The restaurant will make a donation of 25 cents to The Lunchbox Fund, which is the estimated cost of one meal for a child.

Why it’s interesting: The process requires minimal effort from diners, and participating restaurants receive exposure via social media in exchange for their donations. The restaurants can also promote their participation in Feedie as a social benefit.

What can be learned from the app: Publicity is a powerful incentive, and philanthropic goals should draw from things people are already doing (such as taking photos of their food and sharing them).

Created by: The Lunchbox Fund


Cost: Free for diners, donation of 25 cents per photo for restaurants (made in an annual $500 donation).

Future of the app: Photo sharing could increase in popularity so that restaurants can donate more than $500 each year. Feedie could also incentivize “likes” or “shares” of photos taken and shared in the app.

Food Cowboy

What it does: Food Cowboy seeks to end food waste by connecting food companies who have food to donate with charities that support people who need food.

How it works: Companies post food donations and locations on the app, Food Cowboy contacts charities nearby, and the company and charity arrange for a delivery, pickup, or transfer.

Why it’s interesting: The platform allows direct interaction between the donor and the beneficiary. The company invests 2/3 of its revenue in food charities and waste-reducing businesses and technology.

What can be learned from the app: Facilitating interaction can be an effective hands-off way to prevent food waste.

Created by: Roger Gordon, Barbara Cohen, and Richard Gordon


Cost: Free

Future of the app: The service area could be expanded across the world.


What it does: This site is a compilation of users’ favorite dishes at restaurants with photos and recommendations.

How it works: Individuals can share their favorite dishes or browse dishes posted by other users. Searching can be filtered by criteria such as ratings, time frame, and location.

Why it’s interesting: The site focuses on positive reviews and individual dishes, rather than entire restaurants.

What can be learned from the site: Emphasizing the visual component of food sharing makes it more desirable.

Created by: Alexa Andrzejewski, Ted Grubb, and Soraya Darabi


Cost: Free

Future of the site: As more users join the community, the database of popular dishes will continue to grow.


What it does: GiftAMeal allows diners to donate meals to hungry people in their community by dining at a participating restaurant and taking a photo of their food.

How it works: A restaurant pays a monthly fee to participate in the GiftAMeal program. Diners eat at participating restaurants and take a photo and share it within the app (which notifies the diner’s friends). GiftAMeal funds the distribution of one meal from a food bank to a food pantry.

Why it’s interesting: The app focuses on in-app sharing, with social media sharing as a secondary option.

What can be learned from the app: Publicity is a powerful incentive, and philanthropic goals should draw from things people are already doing (such as taking photos of their food and sharing them).

Created by: Andrew Glantz and Aidan Folbe


Cost: Free for customers, tiered monthly fee for restaurants ($49 – $149)

Future of the app: The app is currently only available in St. Louis, but it could expand nationally or internationally.


What it does: Olio connects people and retailers to facilitate the sharing of surplus food.

How it works: Users can post items on the app to give away or sell, others can view the items and request what they want. Users can arrange exchanges in person or utilize Olio drop boxes in local establishments.  

Why it’s interesting: There are community guidelines as to what can be offered on the app, but there isn’t an official regulation framework in place. Users receive ranks to indicate how much experience they have using the app.  

What can be learned from the app: Accessible social forums allow altruism to manifest in a safe manner.

Created by: Saasha Celestial-One and Tessa Cook


Cost: App is free, cost of items vary (but all items must be sold for at least 50% off retail price).

Future of the app: The app is available in 38 countries, but the reach could be expanded. The app is currently not making a profit, but the company hopes to eventually take a commission from sold items.


What it does: This site is a crowdfunding platform for food and beverage entrepreneurs.

How it works: Investors can pledge money to food-related businesses in exchange for rewards.

Why it’s interesting: The site has an incubation approach that prepares projects before they launch and improves their chances to succeed. 1% of the proceeds are given back to non-profits.

What can be learned from the site: Working with a base of individuals who are passionate about food makes raising money for unique food businesses more effective.

Created by: Cheryl Clements


Cost: Investors pay the amounts requested by businesses. Entrepreneurs pay a 6% fee on successfully raised funds, as well as a 2.9% credit card fee.

Future of the site: As more investors find out about the site, there is potential to support more food entrepreneurs.


What it does: This app allows users to search for restaurants in their community and read recommendations from other users. Searches can be filtered by location, type of food, and cuisine.

How it works: Users can review restaurants in their neighborhood or search for new spots based on other recommendations.

Why it’s interesting: It uses the Yelp review model but focuses exclusively on restaurants.

What can be learned from the app: Gathering social reviews and recommendations can provide accurate feedback for users looking for places to eat.

Created by: Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah


Cost: Free

Future of the app: The app could include even more categories to make searching more customized.


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