Frequently Asked Questions


If your question isn’t answered here, or you have feedback for how we can make the site easier to use, feel free to email us at [email protected] or give us a call or text at  (202)449-1507. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

What does MEANS stand for?

MEANS stands for Matching Excess And Need for Stability. The name was created by co-founders Maria Rose and Grant Nelson in 2014.

How does the system work?

Food businesses sign up as donors, and create a post whenever they have extra food available. 

When nonprofit users sign up, they tell us where they are and  what type of food they need. When any food donation fitting those parameters becomes available on the system, users get an email or SMS text message about it. If interested, they can claim the donation, and they receive the contact information of the donor, and the donor receives contact information of the nonprofit to coordinate delivery.

You can see our work in action here.

Where is my confirmation email?

Sometimes your confirmation email can get stuck in your spam filter. To resend the confirmation email, reach out to the MEANS team at [email protected], through the chat feature in the lower right corner of the website, or by call/text at (202)449-1507.

Where is MEANS working?

We have users in all 50 states & Washington, DC. Our strongest networks are our food recovery hubs, where we have donations posted and claimed regularly, while our other regions are still growing. Find out more here.

Is this for a food pantry rather than a food bank?

MEANS can work for smaller emergency food providers, such as food pantries and homeless shelters, or larger emergency food providers, such as food banks. We receive food donations of all sizes, from 15 pounds to 50,000 pounds, so emergency food providers of all sizes can benefit from MEANS.

How much does it cost to use MEANS?

Nothing! We do not charge emergency food providers for using our system or donors for posting their extra food. Our platform is completely free for all users.

How do you assure donation quality?

The MEANS Database team can’t personally check every donation, but we do have checks in place to prevent unwholesome food from being posted on our platform. Donors can post pictures of their donation, which allows recipients to see the quality of the food posted. We also ask for feedback after every transaction where the donor and recipient both rate each other and can provide feedback to our team. If a donor is posting unwholesome food, or if a recipient fails to follow-through and pick up an item, they will receive bad ratings. We look into donors and recipients with consistently bad ratings. If you have questions or concerns about a donation, feel free to text or call us at (202) 449-1507.

What kind of food do people donate to MEANS?

All kinds! MEANS has received donations of fresh fruits and vegetables, leftover catering meals, shelf-stable goods like peanut butter or beans, and other types of food.

What food can I donate?

You can donate any food that would be considered “wholesome” under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. This means food that does not look spoiled, has been kept under proper temperatures as recommended by food safety guidelines, and is packaged accordingly is good to donate. A general rule of thumb for food donation is, if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t donate it!

How does MEANS protect donors from liability?

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (the Emerson Act) provides federal protection for food donors who donate to verified nonprofits. MEANS verifies that anyone claiming items via MEANS Database is a qualifying nonprofit under the Emerson Act, protecting donors. Donated food must be “apparently wholesome” or an “apparently fit grocery product” and meet “all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State, and local laws and regulations,” even if it is not “readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.” MEANS requires donors to check a box and certify items this way each time they donate.

Do you deliver the food?

Yes! Our team of drivers can deliver donations within a 10 mile radius. When a recipient claims an item, they have the option to request transportation as well.

Can the food donor deliver?

On the post and in the email notification, it will say whether the donor is able to deliver. If the donor cannot deliver the food or if the nonprofit cannot pick up, MEANS can assist with delivery!

How often do you send emails?

The only emails users get from us are when we have the kind of food they’ve told us they need. No newsletters (unless you sign up for it here), no spam – just free food.

How is MEANS funded?

As a 501(c)3, MEANS is funded mainly by grants and donations. Any donation to us is tax-deductible. We were kickstarted by the 2015 George Washington University’s Business Plan Competition, and have been supported by many other great organizations since then including: the Kellogg’s Foundation, Valley Venture Mentors, Venturewell, ELCA, Simply Organic, and Grubhub.

Can I sell food donated from MEANS?

No, food that is received from MEANS Database cannot be sold. We believe that donated food should be free.

How do I post a donation?

You can see a video tutorial from our team member Grace here!

Do I qualify to be on MEANS?

To donate food on MEANS, you must be part of a food business (restaurant, grocery store, farm, catering company, cafeteria, warehouse, etc).

To receive food donations via MEANS, you must be a charity (nonprofit, shelter, soup kitchen, food pantry, food bank, mutual aid group, etc). If you are a 501c3 organization, submit your EIN for our system to automatically approve you to receive food donations. Otherwise, request a review of your profile.

Can individuals post donations on MEANS?

Due to food safety and handling concerns, MEANS does not currently allow individuals to post donations. If you are affiliated with a restaurant, catering company, or other food service or business, you can post on MEANS, however private individuals cannot.

How many other users are in my area?

When users sign up for MEANS, their dashboard will state how many users are in their area.

Other questions?

You can ask us any other questions in the chat in the bottom right corner, via email at [email protected], or by call or text at (202)449-1507.

(202) 449-1507

4410 Massachusetts Ave NW #397

Washington, DC 20016