Breaking Bread: The Growing Economy of Food Sharing Communities
When traveling in a foreign country and hungry for something really authentic, I've always had the desire to eat with locals. After Guy Michin had a magical home cooked meal while visiting Crete with his family a couple of years ago, the formerly Silicon Valley-based lawyer and MBA-trained Michin decided to leave his job in the Israeli solar power industry to create a system to replicate that eating experience anywhere in the world. Soon after, he launched EatWith, essentially Airbnb for foodies, where users sign up to either be hosts or guests—and a home-cooked meal and a pancake brunch in Barcelona or a North African dinner in Brooklyn is just a click away.
EatWith is a growing leader in the sharing economy of food startups: Michin started his social experiment startup in Tel Aviv and Barcelona, but this month EatWith launched in New York City and the company is expanding across the United States, Europe, Brazil, and other parts of the world. Michin’s office has been inundated with applications from more than 80 countries to host meals around the world—each host must go through a strict vetting process to ensure everyone’s safety—and typically at least four guests turn up for meals (all of the meals have been sold out in New York so far). Hosts set the prices, and some EatWith experiences include visits to local markets and collective cooking and learning, such as a recent challah-baking workshop in New York.
Other food startups have different approaches to the sharing economy: LeftoverSwap, for example, aims to eliminate food waste by pairing those with excess food to those looking for a community-oriented approach to a homemade meal. The company will soon release their photo-based app, making use of the foodie penchant for sharing snaps of meals on social media. The LeftoverSwap app will be free and users are encouraged to donate their leftovers or ask for a donation. The idea is simple: people get tired of the same foods over multiple nights—especially when just cooking for one or two—and, besides, leftover couscous salad might be one person’s garbage but another’s treasure.
The organization Ample Harvest takes a different approach to making the most of abundance. With the goal of “No Food Left Behind,” this national organization aims to match gardeners overwhelmed by excess produce with hungry families in their communities. Last year AmpleHarvest.org facilitated the donation of more than 20 million pounds of fresh produce across the country. The organization combats hunger and, by providing fruits and vegetables, also works to alleviate obesity and increase the health of low-income Americans. Ample Harvest is also partnered with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program, and the First Lady has publicly highlighted the organization’s work.
AmpleHarvest.org is certainly the most extensive and impactful in the growing economy of food sharing, but how great would it be for the Obamas to get behind companies like EatWith? Who wouldn’t want to dine at the White House?
Photo courtesy of EatWith