Food insecurity solution Bento wants to solve more than hunger

Hunger-relief group Feeding America estimated that the pandemic may trigger 17 million more individuals may grow to be meals insecure , bringing the overall of at-risk People to about 54 million. In accordance to an NYU survey, 15% of households, and 18% of households with kids, reported meals insecurity through the early stage of the disaster. In the meantime, practically 40% of all meals in America, amounting to about 108 billion kilos, goes to waste.

When tech startup Bento launched in March 2020, it was reacting to that heightening of hunger throughout COVID-19, aiming to join the meals surplus with the hungry. Now, armed with proof of affect from its its first 12 months and a half, new partnerships, and knowledge insights from its work with digital transformation agency Genpact, Bento is evolving to not solely present wholesome and diet-specific meals to the hungry, but in addition unlocking entry to different social help, all of which is giving its customers the safety to concentrate on their futures, slightly than solely on worrying about their subsequent meal.

[Image: Bento]

Bento, a derivative of Not Impossible Labs, a tech incubator that goals to solve issues that almost all would contemplate “unattainable,” has to this point delivered 200,000 meals utilizing its SMS system, whereby food-insecure people who find themselves served by Bento’s nonprofit companions can send a text and instantly get choices for close by eating places or grocery shops with choices of free meals. Bento works with nonprofits on one finish to register individuals, and meals suppliers on the opposite, which distribute the identical meals they serve paying prospects. The eating places don’t have change their workflow to present the meals and  individuals choosing up meals don’t really feel the stigma usually related to getting a free meal.

Guarding individuals’s dignity is a key tenet for Bento. Governmental help packages like SNAP “don’t essentially worth that side of dignity as a lot as they presumably may,” says Susan Williams, the corporate’s director of communications. They will also be limiting when it comes to what recipients get on their plates. In distinction, Bento wants to create a local weather whereby individuals can comfortably declare their wants and preferences, receiving meals match for diabetic, vegan, or gluten-free diets.


Its system is built-in with supply providers, like DoorDash and Postmates, to entry menus, from which it curates objects for individuals primarily based on worth vary and diet. “There’s infinite methods through which we will customise that,” Williams says. Genpact, its digital transformation associate, is accumulating and analyzing real-time knowledge, partially to assist effectively determine probably the most dietary meals on a menu, and seamlessly carry them to the fitting individuals. (Genpact started working with Bento as a part of a partnership with Quick Firm, after Bento was chosen from amongst our 2021 World Altering Concepts Awards honorees.)

In a single instance of this versatility of choices, Bento obtained a grant from the Detroit Space Company on Getting older, a nonprofit that serves the aged and their caregivers, so as to particularly help Muslim, Hispanic, and African-American residents. Earlier than, the meals they had been getting usually are not culturally or religiously applicable, or palatable, a lot in order that the group noticed that individuals had been opting out of receiving meals in any respect. The partnership ought to present a approach to give them “that dietary meals help from eating places which are really interesting,” Williams says.

[Image: Bento]

If persons are getting good, nutritious meals, it contributes to favorable well being outcomes usually, which provides individuals the time and vitality to take into consideration different features of their lives and futures, slightly than merely dwelling from meal to meal. So, Bento now goals to suppose past the meal, and actively assist to enhance different circumstances in individuals’s lives, connecting them to sources round housing, training, job coaching, and psychological well being. “We’re coming in as a meals useful resource,” Williams says, however “our program flexes by design to meet these totally different standards.”

In Memphis, Bento partnered with HIV/AIDS help group, Mates For Life, to assist individuals get again to the clinic to get reassessed, and proceed to keep eligible for social providers. Becky Roland, the charity’s diet supervisor, reported that 4 shoppers in a single week re-enrolled in care after getting Bento’s textual content reminders. “This implies they’re seeing their docs, taking their drugs, and receiving meals and different social help,” she mentioned in an announcement.

If nutritious meals is the route to good well being outcomes, Bento wants to show that it’s definitely worth the funding for healthcare suppliers. Subsequent 12 months, it should roll out a pilot to present proof that there’s a value profit for the healthcare business to create a reimbursement mannequin for wholesome meals as a preventative measure—and that it’ll lower your expenses in the long term as persistent dietary circumstances, like diabetes and coronary heart illness, subside. Analysis helps that idea: the CDC reported that food-insecure adults increased annual healthcare expenditures by $687 million per state, whereas the AJPH discovered that reducing hunger lowered annual health-related bills by $1,400 to $5,000 per individual. Bento can even do a pilot with Medicaid, involving 3,500 program individuals who’re additionally meals insecure.

“We’re actually attempting to be beyond-a-band-aid solution,” Williams says. “We’re actually attempting to present that there’s a good enterprise in having the ability to feed individuals and get them engaged—and hopefully transfer them from simply surviving, to thriving.”