CINCINNATI -- A group of Miami University students invented a way for you to select a can of beans, a box of cereal or even a carton of eggs to donate to your local food bank—all while never leaving your couch.
By downloading NomNom Nation, a free smartphone app that rolled out to Android users last week, people can allocate donations to listed items most needed by their local food bank.
"Some people don't like giving to causes because they feel like they're just blindly giving money to a cause," said Brent Bielinski, the 25-year-old CEO of Cincinnati-based NomNom Nation, LLC. "This kind of allows people to get a similar experience to actually buying the food themselves and dropping it off."
The app is the first of its kind to allow donors to make specific donations through their smartphones, and it's a move to target young donors who would otherwise likely never travel to a food bank themselves.
NomNom Nation encourages friendly competition through a monthly "food race," where users can form groups and challenge each other to donate the most.
"We're racing the food from your phone to your local food bank. You don't have to set up the bins and have everybody drop the food off and spend all that extra gas and time collecting it," said Bielinski.
For the next month, donations made through the app will go only to the Shared Harvest Foodbank in Fairfield, which serves a five-county region, as Bielinski and his two partners make sure everything works as it should.
The food bank can purchase eight meals with just $1. App users donated 360 meals in just two days.
"The children who receive free and reduced breakfast and lunches are soon to be home for summer and their parents are facing feeding them one or two extra meals per week. They don't have the budget, so launching the app at this time could be better for us," said Tina Osso, executive director at the Shared Harvest Foodbank.
The Ohio Association of Foodbanks has invested $5,000 in the NomNom Nation LLC., so the local company can offer a free IOS version of their app allowing iPhone users to use it this June. The association says it will support the young entrepreneurs with their plan to take the app state--and eventually--nationwide. There are 12 member food banks in Ohio and 205 across the country.
"I was quite frankly blown away," said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. "I've worked with a lot of major corporations over time and I was really shocked at the thorough, extensive research and the development that they had done as well as the business plan."
Bielinski runs the company out out of his Cincinnati living room and meets with his partners on Google Hangout. He works part-time at a local construction company to pay his rent, as he waits for the business to make a profit.
"In the entrepreneurial community, there's a term called boot strapping, which is basically when you're trying to start a business but you don't have any money. And obviously coming out of college, I didn't have any money," he said.
WCPO Insiders can read about how Belinski started his business, watch a video that explains how the app works and see which other six non-profit apps you should know about.