The Best Inventions of 2021
November 10, 2021 6:08 AM EST

When Mick Ebeling set out to tackle the food-insecurity crisis that affects 1 in 8 Americans, he envisioned something useful and convenient that could also protect users’ dignity. The answer: cell phones—more specifically, a text-messaging service called Bento that partners with local organizations and government agencies to enroll people in need of food assistance. Once signed up, users can text “order” to a number associated with the service. They can then select a no-cost meal from nearby participating restaurants, which process Bento orders as they would any other—allowing users to pick up their meals without drawing attention to their situation. Bento has provided 150,000 healthy meals since its launch in March 2020, Ebeling says. —Guadalupe Gonzalez

Correction, November 12

The original version of this story misstated the word users text to request a meal. It is “order,” not “hungry.”

More Must-Read Stories From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com.

EDIT POST