Meal Sharing is the Newest Player in the Sharing Economy
Who will you meet?
Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.
Meet these peers and discuss the future of cities in the new Meeting of the Minds Executive Cohort Program. Replace boring virtual summits with facilitated, online, small-group discussions where you can make real connections with extraordinary, like-minded people.
The sharing economy is gaining momentum on the back of social and economic trends: the recession incentivizing sharing resources instead of owning goods, technology enabling transparency and social connection, and climate change increasing awareness about resource consumption. More and more organizations are popping up focused on collaborate consumption. Fast Company estimates the sharing economy as a $2 billion industry. In urban environments, the sharing economy is dissolving the line between private and public spaces. Bedrooms are becoming distributed hotels via Airbnb and personal cars are becoming taxis via Lyft, Sidecar, and UberX. Looking ahead, the next private space that will transform is the kitchen.
Around the globe, innovative online platforms are connecting ordinary people who enjoy cooking to guests who want to eat home cooked meals. Kuala Lampur based PlateCulture enables cooks around Southeast Asia to open up their kitchens to guests. Platforms such as Paris based Cookening and Tel Aviv based EatWith focus on connecting travelers to home cooked meals while on the road, sharing culture through food. And in San Francisco, SupperShare is building community through shared meals, donating a percent of earnings to local charities.
Looking at the impact of shared economy organizations in parallel industries, the San Francisco Business Times shows that Airbnb “exceeds 10 million bookings and is used by over 50,000 renters per night.” As Airbnb’s market share increases, hotel revenues in the same markets are decreasing. Similarly, the taxi industry is locked in a battle to regulate ride-sharing companies such as Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber as they disrupt the industry. Thinking about the potential volume of meal sharing, the question is how it will impact urban food systems and the restaurant industry.
Meal sharing introduces a completely new component to the dining experience: socializing with strangers. To attend a shared meal, the guest must be interested in engaging in conversation with new people, which is actually one of the barriers for meal sharing sites to gain users. Since this is not a consideration when deciding to dine out, meal sharing might nicely compliment the restaurant industry. Meal sharing may also incentivize people who cook at home to do so more frequently, as they are able make a profit.
More interesting than the economic impacts of meal sharing is the potential it carries for urban food systems and communities. First of all, meal sharing creates time and space for people to connect offline in the most traditional way possible, over food. For guests who would otherwise be consistently eating out, eating home cooked food on a regular basis usually means a lower intake of salt and fat, improving health. There are also implications for food waste and the ability to build more resilient communities through increased social connections.
When thinking about the potential of meal sharing, SupperShare cofounder Kim Hunter says, “It can reduce food waste and leverage buying power as we’re looking to explore with SupperShare. Meal sharing in support of a shared purpose can raise financial support and community awareness. Community dinners like our Harvest Dinner at New Liberation Community Garden raised money to help the garden, which distributes fresh produce to the community and brought together a cross section of people across racial and economic lines. Food is a common denominator and an incredible tool to bring people together, which I’d say is a huge first step to addressing the multitude of challenges we face in urban environments. It’s really not about limiting ourselves to just high tech solutions but about community engagement and how food is a common denominator.
Where meal sharing differs from other shared economy services is that it acts as a catalyst for community building, supporting common causes, and intimately sharing cultures. The potential for these platforms is only limited by the creativity of the meal sharing community.
Top Photo Credit: Eilon Paz
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
This article was originally published on September 8, 2020.
Update for April 20, 2021:
After the murder of George Floyd we wrote this article as a kind of blueprint, a beginning to a new way of working with equitable resilience in our cities and beyond. Now, as the trial of Derek Chauvin comes to a guilty verdict in Minneapolis and the whole country reflects on the legacy of that verdict, we have to remember another senseless murder – another young Black man, Daunte Wright, at the hands of law enforcement, just miles from the courthouse. Again, Minneapolis is all of us. We have protested, we have voted. We stood up, we spoke out, we have raged about the anti-Black racism. We have seen people come together, we can feel a shift in this country. But there is so much more to do. No equity, no resilience.
-Ron & Stewart
Housing that is affordable to low-income residents is often substandard and suffering from deferred maintenance, exposing residents to poor air quality and high energy bills. This situation can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory health issues, and siphon scarce dollars from higher value items like more nutritious food, health care, or education. Providing safe, decent, affordable, and healthy housing is one way to address historic inequities in community investment. Engaging with affordable housing and other types of community benefit projects is an important first step toward fully integrating equity into the green building process. In creating a framework for going deeper on equity, our new book, the Blueprint for Affordable Housing (Island Press 2020), starts with the Convention on Human Rights and the fundamental right to housing.
Since the Great Recession of 2008, the housing wealth gap has expanded to include not just Black and Brown Americans, but younger White Americans as well. Millennials and Generation Z Whites are now joining their Black and Brown peers in facing untenable housing precarity and blocked access to wealth. With wages stuck at 1980 levels and housing prices at least double (in inflation adjusted terms) what they were 40 years ago, many younger Americans, most with college degrees, are giving up on buying a home and even struggle to rent apartments suitable for raising a family.
What makes it hard for policy people and citizens to accept this truth is that we have not seen this problem in a very long time. Back in the 1920s of course, but not really since then. But this is actually an old problem that has come back to haunt us; a problem first articulated by Adam Smith in the 1700s.