Note – more about Kumar and FoodCircles to come soon!
Jonathan Kumar eats his sandwich with a twinge of disgust.
Now, Kumar is not a novice restaurant frequenter.
He has hunted down the best taco food trucks, and shared plates with big groups of friends at tapas bistros. He can often be found devouring a burger at a dark and local pub because it was recently voted best in town. Or his personal favorite, anywhere that has a row of specialty sauces lined up for taste testing.
For Kumar, dining out is entertainment. It’s the thing that brings a group of people together on a Friday night. Where they laugh and share stories about life while passing around a big bowl of garlic breadsticks.
But as Kumar picks up his $12 French dip with chips, he stops.
“I always felt a little big guilty,” Kumar explains about the price of a simple sandwich at a restaurant, “Growing up, my family lived on food stamps. And I always remember what that was like. Spending $12 on a sandwich still always gives me a weird feeling,”
Then he thought, “I know how much groceries that $12 could buy. That could be used so many different ways.”
So he found a way.
After graduation from the University of Michigan and with help from a group of developers created FoodCircles.
It’s an application for smart phones with a simple concept: buy one, feed one. It uses dining out as a platform to feed children who are hungry locally, and around the world.
FoodCircles uses GPS to locate participating restaurants around someone with the app. In Grand Rapids, some include big local favorites like Brewery Vivant, Hopcat, and Mangiamo. Then it allows you to purchase a voucher for $1. These vary from restaurant to restaurant, but are typically good for a free appetizer, meal or dessert. Often times, restaurants will use this as a way to have guests try new menu item.
Then, FoodCircles donates that $1 to either the Kids Food Basket to feed hungry locally, or to World Visions for international children. It is the user’s choice. The user can also increase the amount they wish to pay for his or her voucher, but $1 is the only requirement.
“Hunger is an important thing to attack,” said Kris Spaulding, the owner of Brewery Vivant, “That’s why we wanted to be a part of this. It’s a program that lets people team up with the restaurant to do good things.”
Spaulding said FoodCircles has been well received by their customers. It’s simple to use, and she hopes it will continue to bring in new customers.
According to Kids Food Basket, every $1 used on FoodCircles goes to make a child a sandwich, a fruit, a serving of veggies, two snacks and a drink.
Kumar did not want to just work for a company after graduation. He knew that he could use his skills to create something that would impact the lives of a lot more people.
“Another goal is to help people get dinner plans. Fast,” Kumar said, “But you know, at the same time, many of us don’t know what it’s like to go to bed hungry. Or what it’s like if that goes on for several days.”
A beta version of FoodCircles is available for Android and iPhone through the App Store. The finalized app design will be released within the month. However, the app currently available works completely in effect.
Kumar says he hopes his idea of buy one feed one spreads throughout the country and restaurants nationally partner to create a strong way to give back.