Mobile app started by Jewish Wash U student marks milestone in fighting hunger



GiftAMeal staffers, including CEO Andrew Glantz (third from left) volunteer at a food bank.

ABBY PRYWITCH, Special to the Jewish Light

GiftAMeal, a hunger-fighting mobile dining app founded by a Jewish Washington University student, reached a new milestone this week: a million meals donated to food banks.

Los Angeles native Andrew Glantz founded GiftAMeal in 2015 while attending Washington University as an undergraduate (he graduated in 2017). GiftAMeal is a free app that makes a donation to a local food bank every time a user takes and shares a photo of their food or drink at one of the app’s participating restaurants. The app is free for the user — restaurants on the app pay a program fee to participate. Users of the app can increase the number of meals being donated by sharing their photos on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter. Each additional social media platform the picture is shared on garners an extra meal donation.

“GiftAMeal is a program that helps support local restaurants while feeding the hungry,” said Glantz, who now lives in Clayton and serves as GiftAMeal’s CEO. Currently, more than 500 restaurants participate in the app.

Glantz said GiftAMeal currently supports 25 different food banks, making a donation to each local food bank based on the restaurants in that metro area. On July 18, GiftAMeal hit the million-meals-donated milestone.

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From July 19-25, GiftAMeal will be doubling all of its donations, enabling users to provide up to eight meals with a single photo.

Expanding GiftAMeal’s reach

GiftAMeal recently expanded to 16 new states due to the addition of two restaurant chains, Chick’nCone and Lee’s Famous Chicken Recipe. Glantz expects the latest partnerships to increase the number of people fed by its food bank donations by the tens of thousands.

“We’ve really kind of taken off. We’ve started to work with a number of restaurants, but the one that brought us to a lot of these states was Chick’nCone,” Glantz said. “They put chicken in a waffle cone, a really fun concept.”

Chick’nCone currently has one location in the St. Louis area, at 15 N. Euclid Ave. in the Central West End. The corporate chain of Chick’nCone, based in Lehigh Valley, Pa., joined GiftAMeal in April and is covering the costs for its franchises.

Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken corporate is paying for all of its U.S. locations to be part of GiftAMeal, effective July 1. Lee’s has locations in 12 states, including Missouri.

“With over 100 locally-owned and operated locations, Lee’s is truly a neighborhood restaurant involved in the communities we serve,’ said Ryan Weaver, CEO of Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, in a statement. “We’re in the business of feeding people, so partnering with GiftAMeal to heal childhood hunger across every community we serve is a natural fit.”

Glantz said GiftAMeal’s partnerships with Chick’nCone and Lee’s are just the start of working with bigger chains.

“We’re in discussions with some of these larger chains that will look to partner with GiftAMeals across all their locations in the country, so that’s really exciting,” added Glantz.

Dedicated to giving back

Glantz said while growing up in L.A., he volunteered frequently. During an internship one summer, he talked to one of his work partners about how millennials especially want to support businesses that give back to the community.

“They want to share things out on social media about causes,” he said. “So I kind of combined all of that, together with the trend of people posting pictures of food on social media.”

According to Glantz, GiftAMeal is a “for-profit social venture.” He described it as, “looking for that profits-with-a-purpose mindset of both doing well while doing good.”

Glantz said restaurants participating in the program have seen benefits.

“Guests using GiftAMeal are returning 39% more frequently, tipping 32% more on average, and spending 20% more per visit,” Glantz said. “And so the restaurants have seen this kind of marketing return in addition to the impact.”

On average, a GiftAMeal restaurant provides around 1,000 meals per year.

Dining out while fighting hunger

Ellie Hattrich, a proponent of GiftAMeal, uses the app to find new restaurants.

“There are so many awesome places on the app and I love that you can search by location, filter by type of food, and even see photos people have taken at each restaurant,” Hattrich said. “It’s so helpful to have a list of places on hand when deciding what to eat and knowing that each of the restaurants participates in such a great cause that helps fight hunger.”

Since downloading the GiftAMeal app, Hattrich has used it more than 100 times. “It makes me feel great to know I’m helping to fight hunger in St. Louis when I use the GiftAMeal app,” Hattrich said. “I love the work that they do with Operation Food Search and other food banks around the country. Being able to donate to these organizations while enjoying awesome food is a win-win.”

Businesses interested in joining the fight against hunger can sign up at GiftAMeal will then add them to the app, providing them with promotional materials that explain to customers what to do. Glantz then provides a monthly update letting them know the impact they make each month.

“Any restaurant that wants to be involved and add a socially conscious element to their business is more than welcome to join,” Glantz said.

GiftAMeal will be hosting a celebratory event at the Food Hall at the City Foundry STL from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 23. The event is free and open to the public and will feature live music from local artist Lauren Waters as well as a gift card drawings every 15 minutes from Foundry establishments.