Credit: Facebook

When Pope Francis came to town and disrupted the city’s normal flow, restaurants all over Philly were stuck holding tons of uneaten food. Many didn’t know what to do with it — they didn’t want it to go to waste, but also didn’t have room to keep it fresh and edible. Thanks to a last-minute flurry of phone calls, texts and emails, several spots were able to connect with hunger relief organizations. But it wasn’t easy.

This time around, distributing leftover food should be a snap: There’s an app for that.

In advance of the Democratic National Convention and the parties and events it will bring, local nonprofit Operation Food Rescue has launched Food Connect. It’s available for iPhone or Android, and there’s also a website.

How it works:

  • Download the app (it’s free) and tap a big button that says “I have food”
  • Enter your address (or let your phone geolocate you)
  • Choose an appropriately sized vehicle for pickup (car, SUV, truck)
  • Enter your contact info and select a pickup time and date — a range of “after this time and before this time”
  • Note your access code and hit “submit”

That’s it! All donations to “DNC Operation Food Rescue” are tax-deductible.

Guidelines for what kinds of food are accepted are available on the Food Connect website, and include:

  • Food that has not been on the serving line
  • Prepared hot food that has been stored above 135 degrees
  • Cold food that has been stored below 41 degrees
  • Whole uncut, and unpeeled fruits and vegetables
  • Unopened packaged/canned/boxed food
  • Commercially bottled/canned beverages

Do not send:

  • Food that has been previously served
  • Products containing alcohol
  • Food that does not meet food safety standards

Of note, restaurant liability is not an issue when it comes to donations. In 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which established that donors of “apparently wholesome food” could not be held liable if the people who ate it became sick.

Food waste isn’t just an issue during big events like the DNC, of course. An estimated 70 billion pounds of food wasted in America each year. And in Philadelphia, one in four people are food insecure, which is almost twice the national average. On the Food Connect website, Philly restaurants can sign up to be regular donors and receive notifications when food is in need. Food pantries, food banks and community shelters can similarly sign up to be a listed recipient. Also online, anyone can apply to be a driver — a key part of this whole system.

Food Connect was created in partnership with most of the major anti-hunger organizations in Philadelphia, including Philabundance, the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council and SHARE Food Program.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation, including the membership program. She is a former food and...