Help Families in Need to Dine with Dignity

As someone who loves growing, cooking, eating, and sharing healthy local food, I’m always looking for ways to pass along my latest and greatest find. So I was excited to meet Dan Napierski at the recent Mass Innovation Nights MIN Foodie and learn about Pheast, his innovative new food philanthropy program. (Get it? Philanthropy + food = Phfeast!)

Phfeast founder Dan Napierski at Mass Innovation Nights Foodie #7

Phfeast founder Dan Napierski at Mass Innovation Nights Foodie #7

Phfeast is a restaurant loyalty program where you can earn free meals for children and families in need, just by checking in when you’re dining at participating eateries. This start-up, based at the Venture Development Center at UMass Boston, provides a platform for loyal customers to earn meal rewards for families that rely on food pantries for assistance.

“I have three young children of my own at home,” Napierski told me. “I feel fortunate to be able to put food on our table and to take them out for a meal. I started Phfeast when I realized that thousands of families in Massachusetts don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” he said.

“According to Project Bread, 700,000 Massachusetts children and adults are experiencing food insecurity,” Napierski added. “Food pantries are facing increased demand, so we’re partnering with them to reach people who need help. Phfeast enables families in need to enjoy a meal with dignity.”

Napierski, a Framingham, Mass. resident whose background is in software development, has already created a web-based program for Phfeast and native Android and iOS apps are coming soon. Customers earn points each time they “check in” at participating locations. When each location reaches a specific number of points, it issues a dining certificate to a local food pantry, allowing an individual or family in need to dine at that restaurant for free.

Phfeast charges the eateries a subscription fee. Participating restaurants get promoted by Phfeast and gain all the benefits of a traditional loyalty program. By promoting their participation in the program, the restaurants can attract new customers and encourage current customers to eat there more frequently. And the eateries will be able to account for and promote their charitable giving.

Currently, there are 11 participating locations, including six Stone Hearth Pizza Co. restaurants, three Chicken & Rice Guys food trucks, the Amsterdam Falafelshop in Somerville, and the Foodie Café in Framingham. Napierski is adding locations rapidly and hopes to expand to other cities, starting with Washington, DC.

Ian So, from The Chicken & Rice Guys, says, “Giving back to the community is something that’s been very important to us. We feel like it’s a responsibility, and Phfeast is something easy we can do to help people eat.”

This post originally appeared on the Food Day Massachusetts blog.

Food Day is an annual nationwide celebration on October 24 and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. Massachusetts has been a leader in organizing fun and educational activities to spotlight the movement. Please check out the list of upcoming events on the Food Day web site.

Dan Napierski is a strong supporter of the Food Day priorities. “In addition to helping to reduce hunger, we’re helping families eat safer, healthier meals at the participating eateries,” he said. “And many of the low-paid workers in the food industry rely on food stamps and food pantries to get by. It’s an honor to be able to give back to those workers by enabling them to enjoy a free meal, on the house,” he added.

As we get closer to Food Day on October 24, signing up to participate in Phfeast as an eater, business or donor is an easy way for us to help reduce hunger, one meal at a time. I’m hoping some JP restaurants will jump on board so I can start directing my dining dollars to those in need. For more info, visit www.Phfeast.com.

[Editor’s note: The author, Jamaica Plain’s Myrna Greenfield, is “Top Egg” at Good Egg Marketing]