FoodToob

UPDATE: FoodToob has a new home at: foodtoob.org

FoodToob. Use it or be square.

Toob your leftovers to the hungry!

You already know where to send your leftover clothing… but where do you send your leftover food?

I’m building a toob system for your leftovers!  Have you ever thrown a handful of food away while wondering what starving person it would bring a smile to if you could give it to them? Instantly?

Unfortunately, technology is not yet advanced enough to actually transmit leftovers around the planet on a whim.  Sorry, no transporters, teleporters, replicators, fax machines, food catapults, or even pneumatic food tubes to be found here.  I got tired of waiting for such things to become useful so I designed the next best thing… another creative way to use your smart phone.

FoodToob is a system that allows people to send their leftovers (and any other extra food) to any food bank in the US and select food banks abroad, by proxy.  FoodToob is a donation system that enables app users to make micro-donations in the value of, and in the name of, their wasted food.  FoodToob is also a social media campaign to support donors in announcing their experience with “toobing” their food to various places around the planet as well as encouraging others to “toob it” too.

“I toobed my cucumber sandwich straight to Zhong Wazhalong, China!”

Please help us build this unique system to reach a new generation of donors.  All of the technology already exists to build it.  We need funding for the resources to hook it all together in a safe and secure way.

Help us make the phrase “toob it” mean that we, as humans, care about getting food to those who need it most.

FoodToob – toob it or be square

Mission statement

The primary mission of FoodToob is to find new donors in innovative (if not unusual) ways to boost food donations for the hungry.  The secondary mission of FoodToob is to raise awareness of and reduce food waste.

Goal

I believe all people should donate at least 1% of their income to feed, clothe, and shelter the hungry, sick, and afflicted.  Therefore, FoodToob’s goal is to collect and distribute 1/3 of that (the food part).  That is, FoodToob’s goal is to collect and distribute just 0.33% of all personal income.  In the United States alone, that would be somewhere near $50 billion a year.  Even if FoodToob was used by only 1 in 1000, that could still mean $50 million to help feed the hungry.  Toobing extra food from other entities is also encouraged.

What is a toob?

tube, noun (plural tubes)

  • Anything that is hollow and cylindrical in shape and could be used to convey physical materials.

toob, noun (plural toobs)

The internet is made up of intertoobs.

How food toobs work

mockup03.trimmed
Android mockup screens.

Option 1

  • Eat part of your food
  • Throw the rest away
  • Start the FoodToob app
    1. Click a meal button (breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.)
    2. Use the slider to indicate how much you ate
    3. Choose a destination to toob it to
    4. Click the “Toob It Now!” button
  • IMPORTANTE!  Tell your friends you just toobed your food to South America.

Then, once a month

  • Receive a statement for the total value of your toobed food (times a multiplier of your choice: ¼, ½, ¾, 1, 1½, 2, etc.)
  • Pay the donation.  Odds are that the value of your leftovers will feed more than your actual leftovers would have.

Option 2

  • Eat all of your food
  • Wahoo!  No penance!  (as long as you didn’t overeat to accomplish this feat)
  • MIKILVÆGT!  Tell your friends you don’t waste any food to toob.

For example…

Joe is looking overly stuffed like a Jigglypuff doll. “Mffhjflgrrr. I guess I can’t eat nine hamburgers.”

“So, toob the rest to New Jersey,” says Bob plainly.

“Uh??? MRRMflgurg?” grunts Joe.

“Here, it’s easy.” Bob uncovers his phone from under his french fries and tap, tappity tap, tap, sliiiiide, tap, tap. “Done.”

“What about my fries?” asks Joe as he wipes his hands in his hair.

“Already in the toobs,” replies Bob like he’s bored with watching butterflies trying to decide where to land.

“So, uh…” Long pause. “So, uh…..” Long pause. “So, uh what do I do with the rest of my hamburger?” asks Joe finally.

“Toss it in that bin over there and let’s go,” replies Bob. “Don’t worry, it’ll find its way to New Jersey somehow.”

Why such a high startup cost?

(Note: I have removed the fundraising goals from this blog — they didn’t seem relevant here.)

How much does it cost to build a whole new donation system as well as to start and run a nonprofit org for a year?  Basically, I took my current salary, bumped it down a bit, and added overhead for medical, taxes, attorney fees, accountant fees, and other business expenses.  Sorry, but I cannot afford to put much sweat equity into what is intended to become a nonprofit org (I would never get paid back by that model).

In short, I don’t want to be the only one who thinks this is a good enough idea to throw thousands of dollars at it.  If I can’t find a flood of other backers who are willing to support finding new ways to feed the hungry, then this idea is surely not worth pursuing.  If I’m going to do this, I want to hear thousands of people shouting “Yes, Matt, I want to toob my leftovers to my hungry friend in Timbuktu!”

Business plan

The basic plan is to start a nonprofit organization and to build a donation system and application that will collect funds to send to charities.

Microdonations.  Is that a word yet?  Probably.  Flattr comes to mind.  So does Amazon Smile.  (So does one of my Quora questions.)

The first FoodToob app will be for Android (even though I personally use something else).  Android currently has the worldwide market share so it appears to be the most logical first platform.  Hopefully, other apps will follow shortly after that.

Revenues and Donations

  • I promise that both I and the nonprofit organization I start to own FoodToob will not skim any percentage of the food donations it collects and distributes.
  • I also promise to be fully transparent about what revenues and donations are coming in and where they are going.  I will publish totals to our website monthly if I can get away with it.

The payment processors may take a percentage of credit card and other types of payments, but we will not.  We will do our best to reduce or these fees as much as possible.

So how will FoodToob sustain itself?  $1 donations.  The FoodToob apps will be available for free.  It would likely be a hard sell to ask someone to pay for a donation app.  Instead, we will provide an option to donate an additional dollar to the FoodToob organization when the toober submits their food donation payment.  We will also investigate merchandising and other fund raising.  A rough estimate is that it could cost $500,000 a year to keep this nonprofit org running with a handful of employees.  That would be 43,000 people donating $1 a month (assuming a 3% charge) — a pretty tough goal.

A possible merchandising idea is to sell printed and framed certificates of participation in FoodToob.  Each anniversary of membership in the program can bring a digital certificate of accomplishment.  Different certificates for different levels of participation.  The toober will than have the option to purchase a hard copy.  Or, perhaps, pay to have it boasted to social media sites (possibly with amount indicated in a fictional FoodToob unit of measure more related to mass than money).

Other apps may be built to support the org and boost interest such as games like Free Your Fridge, Chuck Your Cupboard, Steal My Pantry, Toss Your Salad, and Spoils of Spoils.

waterbottles
Merchandising mockups.

Personnel

  • Chief Engineer and CEO: me, for now
  • Business Manager and Project Manager: TBD
  • Additional engineers: TBD
  • Help and support: TBD

The app

Planned launch features:

Later features:

  • Apps for other devices such as iPhone, WP, Fire, and the web
  • More interesting UI effects when adjusting the “leftovers” slider
  • Detailed list of food items and values and adjustments for various cost zones
  • Continuous pursuit of how to connect to more food banks worldwide
  • Instant payments perhaps (on larger amounts)
  • Auto payment option (with limits)
  • Toobing reminders
  • Toobing popups triggered by purchases at restaurants (?)
  • Posting and boasting to social network sites about where you just toobed your food to
  • Games encouraging you to clean out your fridge and toss other expired items
  • Whatever else we can come up with to reduce doldrums and increase interest

Infrastructure

Planned launch infrastructure and tools:

  • Minimal website
  • Robust donations database running on Amazon, Heroku, or some other cloud server (Postgres database most likely)
  • Food bank charity database fed by IRS or GuideStar for US data
  • Monthly billing tool
  • Payment processing (probably using Network for Good or FirstGiving)
  • DevOps servers running on Linode or some other cloud server (Jenkins CI/CD tool most likely)
  • Git SCM somewhere (Bitbucket maybe, or Linode)

Later infrastructure and tools:

  • Build up the website and add a FoodToob app to it as well
  • Build FoodToob account management tools somewhere (both end-user as well as internal tools)
  • Build up the billing and payment tools
  • Grow the cloud servers as needed
  • Analytics and big data
  • Automate whatever DevOps haven’t been automated already
  • Reports, reports, reports (including public reports)

Timeline

Month 0:

  • Find an attorney and a CPA and start the process of setting up a nonprofit that can handle donations such as these (any volunteer expertise here would be HUGELY appreciated)

Month 1:

  • Put up a simple website
  • Contact GuideStar, Network for Good, and FirstGiving to setup accounts for charity data and donation processing
  • Build the data model and data flow diagrams
  • Set up a database server
  • Handle other business startup stuff

Month 2:

  • Set up a DevOps server
  • Build the database
  • Start modeling the application objects (sequence diagram)
  • Build the Android UI

Month 3:

  • Fill in the much of the guts of the Android app and test toobing food to the central database

Months 4-6:

  • More testing
  • Start work on the billing and donation processes
  • Start working with GuideStar and other orgs to fill and maintain the charity database
  • Start working with Network for Good or FirstGiving to setup donation processing to food banks
  • Look for solutions for processing donations for food banks outsite the US

Month 7:

  • Freeze features for version 1 of the app
  • Begin alpha testing

Month 8:

  • Begin beta testing
  • Build up the website more

Months 9-12:

  • Extra time, if needed
  • If not needed, launch ASAP and begin work on next version and/or other platforms

Risks and challenges

There is a lot more to build than just what food toobers will see.  Yes, of course, there are many hackers who can bang out a simple Android app that looks functional in just a few days.  I’m sure I could do the same if the front-end app was my only focus.  But I’m not building just an app.  I’m building a whole new donation system.  The apps need to connect to a central database somewhere to store info about everything thrown into the toobs so that it can later be processed and billed back out.  Then, as the bills get paid, the donations need to be collected and distributed.  This data collection and processing is where the bulk of the work and testing will be.  Fortunately, building the whole stack is my expertise (database design to front-end app to data flow processes) and I’m not too worried about being able to get through all of this on my own.  Especially given what other companies have already built that I can contract with.  Yes, there will be some new technical challenges for me to learn about and overcome, but nothing I can’t handle given the bridges I have already crossed in my career.  Still, there is always a risk it could be bigger than I estimate and may take longer to build than anticipated… which is why I’m giving myself twice as much time as I think I really need.

My bigger worry is the business side that I don’t like so much.  This is where I need to find a good business manager who can hand both the business and the project management.  Do the paperwork, contact partners, pay the bills, keep me focused, etc.  That, or I will handle all the nonprofit org stuff (with the help of an attorney and CPA) myself if funding does not permit more help here.  Not fun, but I’ll get through it.

The biggest challenges lay beyond the launch of this project.  Those will be in finding ways to keep the FoodToob apps engaging, out of the annoying doldrums, and not just a passing fad.  Ideas such as social media boasting, toob games, and “who knows what” will always be on the mind.


A bit of backstory

I originally created this as a Kickstarter project.  As I got further into it, however, it became apparent that I was fundraising to start up a nonprofit org rather than just trying to build a cute new way to collect and distribute donations.  Thus, I asked Kickstarter about it and they replied that it does not meet their creativity-only scope.  I respect their opinion on this.  It is a correct statement given their rules banning fundraising for charities.

Therefore, I was stuck with trying to find a new home for FoodToob.  I have hit the classic chicken-and-egg problem.  Which comes first?  The nonprofit or the fundraising to start it?  All nonprofit crowdfunding sites I have found thus far require that the nonprofit already exist and be registered with the IRS.  I, however, cannot afford to spend time and fees creating this nonprofit until I have tested the idea sufficiently to know it is worthwhile (because I recognize this idea is pretty far outside of what many people would see as a normal and safe idea).  This is where I was hoping Kickstarter would prove useful — because there you either receive full backing from the masses, or you receive nothing, and you can walk away from it easily.

Until I can find a similar bootstrapping organization for nonprofit startups, FoodToob will live and perhaps die here on my obscure blog.  The current hope is that Ashoka and their changemakers.com site can help FoodToob find life.  Look here for the current state of FoodToob at Changemakers:

http://www.changemakers.com/project/foodtoob

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3 thoughts on “FoodToob

  1. Here’s another food bank app already seeing success.

    http://foodbankapp.co.uk/

    It differs in that the action is triggered by the food bank and the reaction is from the donor. FoodToob places both the action and reaction on the donor (tossing leftovers leads to a donation) and hopefully generating much more donor activity. (Single-person action and reaction — a bit like cursing and donating to a cursing jar.)

    Like

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