At just 20 years old, an American University student and her team of nine have created a way to reduce food waste while feeding those who are in need. MEANS is an online service for food pantries and kitchens and donors to connect for the greater good. I had the privilege of interviewing the CEO and kick-ass female entrepreneur Maria Rose Belding, here’s what she had to say:

1. What is MEANS?


Photo courtesy of Nilaya Sabnis and L’Oreal Women of Worth

MEANS is a nonprofit online resource for emergency food providers like food pantries and soup kitchens. Organizations tell us where they are, what they need and how far they’re willing to travel to get it. We’re then able to send them emails or text messages when the food they’re looking for becomes available from a donor.

2. When/why did you decide to start MEANS?

I started MEANS because I grew up working in a food pantry and saw how hard it was for us to communicate with our sister agencies that were only 10 or 15 minutes from us. When I was 15, I had the idea to build an online network to make that communication easier. When I was 18, I met my co-founder and many of our now staffers, and when I was 19 the website went live. Now I’m 20, and there’s no sign of stopping!

3. Who is involved with MEANS with you?


Photo courtesy of Nilaya Sabnis and L’Oreal Women of Worth

We have about 20 people on our team between staff, interns, volunteers and programmers. Our Communications Director, Zoey, is an AU student, and we have an awesome crew of four interns and volunteers from College of Arts and Sciences and Kogod School of Business working with us this semester.

4. How many states is MEANS in?

We have users in 42 states plus DC.

5. Have you seen a lot of growth with MEANS recently? Where is it projected to go?


Photo courtesy of Ricky Carioti and The Washington Post

We’ve moved more food with MEANS in the past six weeks or so than we did in our first six months. It’s been an extraordinarily exciting time for us, and right now we’re preparing for a large campaign for over the summer. We’d like to just keep growing, and keep feeding people!.

On top of her innovation, Maria has received many humanitarian awards and honors and even spoke at AU’s TEDx series.

She was on the Steve Harvey show a few weeks ago to speak about MEANS.

People Magazine even featured her and her work with MEANS in an article in March.

Spoon AU is proud to share Maria’s success’ with MEANS with our community and look forward to watching it grow beyond DC.