Food deserts have long been a problem in America, and it’s estimated that 23.5 million people, over half of whom are low-income, are living in communities without access to fresh, nutritious food within one mile or, in rural areas, within 10 miles. Households struggling with poverty are less likely to own a vehicle, further complicating what may seem to some as simple as a quick trip to the grocery store. In the COVID era, that quick trip is even more complicated, but home delivery is not a traditionally affordable option. Enter Tangelo. With a few quick swipes, users can select fresh, local fruits and vegetables to be delivered to their doorstep at zero cost. Along with picking out produce, users can opt to take a food quiz giving them access to more fruit and veggie orders, allowing Tangelo to compile information to develop their nutrition offerings. Each month, Tangelo users get a deposit in their “wallet,” currently supported by corporate donors, like Naked. Soon the platform may be approved for SNAP benefits as well.
Built on the belief that what we eat each day plays a massive role not only in our health, but in every aspect of our life, Tangelo considers themselves a food-as-medicine platform. That thinking is right in line with their nonprofit partner Wholesome Wave, dedicated to solving hunger with the “right kind of food.” Over the years, Wholesome Wave has raised millions in private donations and their collaboration with Tangelo takes their work to a whole new level, rooted in meeting people where they are, in communities served by nonprofits like Seeds of Hope, a faith-based organization with a mission to cultivate wellness.
Seeds of Hope Executive Director Tim Alderson gave us the lowdown: “We work every day to provide struggling families with fresh fruits and vegetables, basic nutrition that they would not have otherwise. Their struggle is both financial and geographic. We know that many of the people we serve are regularly having to choose between food and housing. Everything got exponentially more complicated when the pandemic hit. Suddenly millions more people needed help getting something to eat and getting it to them became much more challenging. How do you get food to people who desperately need it without also passing along a potentially deadly virus in the process? Many food pantries shut down, because they couldn’t find a way to keep their clients and staff safe.”
With insight from local organizations like Seeds of Hope, Tangelo is able to identify exactly who needs food, inviting them to download the app and receive $40 a month to spend on produce deliveries for a total of six months. “Tangelo showed up like some kind of miracle. Now, people can get farm-fresh produce delivered to their door for free. They do not risk their health by lining up at a food pantry. They don’t have to forgo the nutrient-dense foods they need to protect their health.“ Alderson goes on, “Tangelo has rendered the whole concept of ‘food desert’ completely meaningless. The Tangelo app is an absolute game changer at exactly the right moment.”
The app launched in January, but the folks behind it had no idea just how relevant it would be in its first year. Wholesome Wave founder Michel Nischan says: “This gives people who are nutrition-insecure the financial resources to buy the food they need to avoid the diet-related diseases that are killing and hospitalizing people at the highest rates with COVID.” Wholesome Wave has long experimented with ways to increase access to food as medicine, including “prescriptions” for produce handed out by doctors to be redeemed at local grocery stores, and incentives doubling the value of food stamps when used on fruits and veggies. The group is focused on raising funds for longer-term support of Tangelo, to expand the number of people who can access the app and its nutritious offerings.
So far, Tangelo is servicing areas of North Carolina, New York, Connecticut and California. “We’re heavily focused on outcomes,” says Jeremy Cooley, founder and CEO of Tangelo. “To really drive change, organizations need to be able to measure what happens when you provide subsidized, medically-tailored meals to large populations of patients with diabetes or heart disease. Measuring these outcomes at scale is what Tangelo’s technology platform can make a reality for the first time.” In what seems to be a near perfect example of mission-driven tech in action, Tangelo has come up with a functional scalable solution to feeding Americans, even in a food desert, even in a pandemic. You start with an apple a day…