Diners go 'Halfsies' to fight hunger and obesity

'Halfsies' plan at restaurants would serve half of a normal portion to diners with the remaining value of the dish used to aid the hungry.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters
An overweight woman sits on a chair in Times Square in New York. The startup 'Halfsies' aims to cut obesity and increase food aid to the hungry by serving diners half a portion and donating the cost of the rest of the meal to charity.

How many times have you gone to a restaurant and not been able to finish your whole meal? Or worse, taken home the leftovers only to throw them out after several days of them sitting untouched in the refrigerator?

Thankfully, there is a new social initiative offering a choice to restaurant-goers that provides two benefits: healthier meal portions, while simultaneously reducing food waste to support the fight against hunger.

While the United States is plagued with both obesity and hunger, Halfsies will now provide a new option of ordering half of a normal portion with the remaining value of the dish being put to better use.

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About 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is thrown away. And the national food-waste habit is growing: As a nation, we waste 50 percent more food today that we did in 1974. At the same time, portion sizes have grown considerably. In the 1970s, about 47 percent of Americans were overweight or obese; now 66 percent are considered overweight. At the same time, more than 50 million Americans are hungry.

With a tag line of “Eat Less, Give More,” Halfsies aims to not only fight world hunger, but also educate consumers on portion sizes, a problem that contributes to America’s growing obesity epidemic. The vision of this nonprofit is to educate right where people live, eat, and work. By offering a half-portion option in participating restaurants, customers are empowered to make a real difference, both in their own lives and in the lives of people in need.

When a consumer chooses to "go halfsies" at a participating restaurant, he or she receives a half-portion of their meal while still paying full price. What restaurants don’t put on the table will be donated to both local (60 percent) and international nonprofits (30 percent) to tackle hunger.  Halfsies will take 5 to 10 percent of the donations to cover overhead costs, and any remaining funds will be used for special projects that align with Halfsies’ mission and values, such as emergency disaster relief, sustainable agriculture, and women’s rights. 

Halfsies turns the simple act of going out to eat into a charitable-giving opportunity. Started by four friends from Austin, Texas, Halfsies plans to kick off pilot programs in its hometown this spring and move into NYC later this year. It is planning for a national launch in 2013. Halfsies is still working through the details with the restaurants, such as the software to be used for easy ordering and tracking, and how different meals will be treated.

Through local and global initiatives, Halfies aims to see food waste in American cut in half, local poverty levels drop, and a significant impact made in the lives of people living with hunger and poverty, both in the United States and around the world. By creating a simple process, Halfsies gives restaurant-goers the opportunity to make an easy choice that benefits themselves, their community, and their world.

For more details visit www.gohalfsies.com

This article originally appeared at Nourishing the Planet. Holly Tassi is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project, a blog published by the Worldwatch Institute. To purchase "State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet," please click HERE. And to watch the one-minute book trailer, click HERE.

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