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Once a restaurant is certified, they can display the seal on websites, menus, and social media channels, which lets consumers know they’ve made a socially responsible commitment to the community. Flash Food’s website also has a searchable database so people can see which restaurants participate. Down the road, consumers will search on Yelp just for restaurants with Flash Food certification.
Lehnhardt says food providers have plenty of incentive to participate in the program. “No one wants to see food go to waste, especially when you know there are people in your community who would love to be able to receive that food,” he says. And, since Flash Food has both a for profit and nonprofit arm, any food donation is tax deductible for businesses.
To keep recipients from getting sick from eating food that hasn’t properly been stored, Flash Food follows standard time and temperature food storage guidelines. “It’s like pizza delivery” says Lehnhardt. “As long as it’s kept in a hot sleeve and above a certain temperature while it’s in transit, it’s safe to eat.” Similarly, foods that need to be kept cool are transported in ice chests.
The innovative project is still in the pilot stage but it won the United States’ Imagine Cup and the project’s been accepted into an entrepreneurship incubator run by ASU which will provide additional business coaching and mentorship. The team hopes to have Flash Food fully functioning in Phoenix by 2013. From there the plan is to leverage relationships formed with hotels and chain restaurants so they can expand to other cities. “We’re going to be looking for people who are willing to give their time volunteering to pick up food or patronize those restaurants that are Flash Food certified,” adds Amundson.
“Flash Food is not the end-all-be-all solution to end hunger in urban areas,” said Lehnhardt. “It’s an important step in the right direction and it’s the kind of program that an entire community can get involved with and work together to try to find solutions.”