Partners, supporters and government officials gathered at New York's City Hall Restaurant on Sept. 29, 2015, to celebrate the official launch of Spare, following a successful one-year pilot. The iPhone app enables users to round up bar and restaurant tabs to the nearest dollar and thus donate their spare change to participating food banks. Proceeds from Spare are already making a difference in New York's fight against hunger, the company said.
"There are currently 235 million missing meals in New York City, and nearly one in five residents lack reliable access to nutritious food," said Andra Tomsa, founder and President of Spare Change Inc., the company behind the app. "If 10 percent of New Yorkers round up for a total of $6 each month, we can close the hunger gap in just one year."
Philip R. Warth, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Feeding America, said, "Spare is a timely idea that reflects passion and a very clear mission and goal. My money is on its complete success."
Approximately 200 people attended Spare's media launch, including program partners Food Bank for New York City, New York City Rescue Mission and Citymeals-on-Wheels. A number of local and state officials also attended.
Rameet Chawla, founder and CEO of Fueled, described Spare as being "at the intersection of technology and philanthropy." Chawla and the Fueled team developed the app and plan to continue to enhance the program while expanding its reach to select markets around the globe. Spare works with security providers Plaid Technologies Inc. and Braintree, a division of PayPal Inc., to protect cardholder data.
As she reflected on her vision and mission, Tomsa cited her lifelong passion to correct inequality, which led to her earning a masters degree in international political economics and development at Fordham University. Tomsa has appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres, Daily News and New York 1 television shows. She has also presented at Money20/20 and the International Women's Day Conference and, in the Dominican Republic, as an invited guest of Vice President Margarita Cedeño de Fernández.
Tomsa's parents, who attended the event, recalled that Tomsa was a baby when they left Romania to settle in the United States. She became interested in philanthropic causes at an early age, they said. Later, as a college undergraduate, she was struck by how much money New Yorkers were casually spending in bars and restaurants. This prompted her outreach to the hospitality industry, where she rapidly gained the support of food banks, restaurants and technology companies interested in redirecting a small portion of bar and restaurant spend to feed hungry New Yorkers. The Spare app was launched in May 2014.
The Spare smartphone application works on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The app, which is free to users and can be found at the Apple App Store, requires iOS Version 8.0. English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish language versions are also available. And Spare users receive detailed reporting on their tax-deductible donations.
While they can round up bar and restaurant tabs at any restaurant, users can earn awards at participating partner venues. Users who round up three times a month receive a free drink. Those who round up five times receive a complimentary appetizer or dessert. A $15 discount off the next bill is given to users who round up 10 times or more per month.
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