After paying for stuff with cash, it seems that our remaining quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies end up in isolated crevices or alongside dander and crust in between sofa cushions. How much money in loose coins does the average human lose in one lifetime? These are questions that often harbor my mind.
In New York City, there’s an estimated 3,084,861 occupied housing units and over 51,511 restaurants.
What if New Yorkers’ dine out bills were rounded to the nearest dollar, and used to do something like, let’s say, provide meals?
An ambitious woman by the name of Andra Tomsa has set out to do this in a special way: a smartphone app called SPARE. After I discovered this service, I asked Andra a few questions about it and she kindly answered.
SPARE founder Andra Tomsa
Kevin Cruz: What is Spare?
Andra Tomsa: SPARE is a smartphone app that allows New Yorkers to round up their dine out bills to the nearest dollar to support local hunger relief efforts. Just $0.99 can help feed 4 New Yorkers through our beneficiary organizations [Food Bank For New York City, City Harvest, City Meals on Wheels & New York City Rescue Mission]. Users can round up anywhere, but users who round up at partner locations receive rewards for giving to those in need [free drinks, food, and $ discounts]. Our goal is to inspire New York City to close its own meal gap. There are currently 235 million missing meals throughout the 5 boroughs each year. It might seem like a tall order to bridge this meal gap, but simple math tells us that if 10 of New Yorkerseachround up for a total of $71.00 on the year, we can close the meal gap in one single year. New York can close its own meal gap, with a minimal contribution from its residents! SPARE will begin by closing the meal gap in NYC and then move from city to city within the United States doing the same. In several years, SPARE intends to move abroad and work in cities such as Cape Town, or Sao Paolo, leveraging the wealth of booming city centers to support the poverty surrounding them.
How was it formed?
SPARE was founded by Andra Tomsa in May of 2013. For the first year, she and a small team of volunteers built the model. In June of 2014, Rameet Chawla, Founder of Fueled [a major app design and development company], joined SPARE as co-founder and donated resources to build the current app, launched recently at Money 20/20. Our app is set to launch locally, in NYC, in mid-December.
What are you currently busy with?
I’m working with a small team [including professionals from First Data, Google Payments and Bloomberg] to transition to frictionless payments within the app. We are essentially working toward automated round-ups, following the trend of Apple Pay and others to make the experience as easy and seamless for the user as possible.
We are also working to build partnerships with online ordering services, such as Seamless, so that we may capture spare change from the dine in as well as the dine out user.
What is your vision for Spare?
I want to use the SPARE model to close a city’s meal gap, one round up, one user at a time in real time. I want to brand rounding up and cultivate the habit of donating small amounts to create a lasting impact towards solving social injustice and inequality. I want to take the model abroad to developing nations and empower everyday people to help those in need in a realistic and affordable way. I want to create a global perspective shift, showing people that we are stronger together than we are individually, and that philanthropy, when done right, can solve seemingly insurmountable problems.
What is your professional background?
I have my undergraduate degree in Economics and my Masters Degree in Development Economics. I graduated from my Masters Degree in January 2012, and worked as a financial advisor with National Life Group for about 6 months. When my son turned 2 months old, I conceived of SPARE and went on to found the company in May of 2013.
Do you plan on integrating bitcoin into your system? What stage of planning are you currently in?
I do intend to integrate bitcoin into our system. We are in early talks with industry professional and expect to transition within the next 6 months.
I’d like to stress that for as little as $6 a month donated by a mere 10 of New Yorkers, New York City can close its own meal gap within one single year. SPARE is a viable solution to a very serious social problem. We have reached a time in history where technology should be able to alleviate issues afflicting basic human needs, such as access to food. SPARE has harnessed technology to create an efficient solution to hunger. Let’s take advantage of this new tech, let’s create history together!
Check out the website here.
- Housing Figure derived from National Multifamily Housing Council http://www.nmhc.org/Content.aspx?id=4708. Restaurant Figure derivied from NPD Group https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/us-total-restaurant-count-increases-by-4442-units-over-last-year-reports-npd/