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Food rescue app ChowBank acquired by MEANS Database

MEANS Database, a nonprofit that connects food donors to pantries and kitchens, announced today at the World Food Prize Foundation’s Iowa Hunger Summit its acquisition of Des Moines-based food rescue app ChowBank.

Since its debut in 2015, ChowBank helped users like Eat Greater Des Moines as the organization rescued nearly twenty million pounds of food that were redirected to feed food insecure Iowans. ChowBank’s acquisition provides MEANS Database with a proven, easy to use, food rescue app that can handle the user growth it has achieved through innovative partnerships with organizations like Grubhub. 

“ChowBank has been a powerful tool for expanding food recovery engagement,” said Eat Greater Des Moines’s Executive Director Aubrey Alvarez in a release. “ChowBank’s simplicity drew in new caterers, restaurateurs, and organizations who were excited by how easy it was to redirect excess food towards helping feed vulnerable Iowans.”

ChowBank was originally commissioned by Eat Greater Des Moines’s Alvarez to help the community connect with immediate opportunities to rescue food that would otherwise be wasted. ChowBank was built by the Technology Association of Iowa (TAI) Prometheus Award winning development team of Thomas Klein, Mike Henry, and Sydney Henry. While Chris Draper and Klein oversaw steady growth in the number of users and pounds rescued in recent years, the MEANS acquisition will allow ChowBank to achieve its full potential for supporting those in need.

“Few get the opportunity to help so many in times of need,” said Draper. “Being able to hand our efforts off so Sammie [Paul] and the MEANS team can maximize ChowBank’s potential is beyond exciting.”

“We’re extremely excited by how ChowBank can let us expand our mobile experience,” said MEANS Database Executive Director Sammie Paul. “While our footprint is national, most of our team’s hearts are still in Iowa where MEANS started. The technological, operational, and inspirational alignments this acquisition brings will help MEANS take our impact to the next level.”

The MEANS Database acquisition of ChowBank will be seamless for current users and organizations, with users and organizations able to donate and accept rescued food as normal. As ChowBank is fully integrated into the MEANS Database technology suite, users will see more options to engage with more communities across the nation.

“We’ve been incredibly impressed by the MEANS team,” said Draper. “And can’t wait to see where their vision, determination and commitment take ChowBank.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Food rescue app ChowBank acquired by MEANS Database | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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