Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  How is Breadcoin unique?

A: Lots of people and entities are looking out to be sure everyone is fed. Every one of them is helpful, and the need is only growing. We don’t aim to be a substitute for any other method of getting food to the hungry.

We are an adjunct method in that Breadcoin is a tool for others to use, not an end in and of itself. No one would ever rightfully say, “Breadcoin fed me.” Instead, “The local church fed me with Breadcoins” or “The staff at the school helped out my family when we needed it by giving us Breadcoins to spend” are what you might hear. Those nonprofits exist to care for people (spiritually and educationally, respectively), but when those they are serving are hungry, that need comes first.

Yet nonprofits doing other things aren’t necessarily equipped to focus on feeding. Breadcoin comes alongside, through our member donors, and gives them the tool to first meet that hunger need and then to continue building the relationships that they are about, for the good of those they serve (and the good of the community).

Q: Where are you currently operating?

A: We are in the following Washington, DC neighborhoods: Anacostia, Ivy City/Trinidad, Metro Center, and Union Station.

In addition to these areas that have complete neighborhood networks in operation, we also have vendors in Foggy Bottom and Brookland and with food trucks that roam throughout the city.


Q: Where and when will Breadcoin expand next?

A: Breadcoin is in conversation with numerous folks around DC who have requested that the Breadcoin network spread to their neighborhoods. As we increase memberships (and concomitant funding) we will move into those areas that have capacity to add vendors, nonprofits, and funding apace with each other.

We are also exploring moving into New York through our current vendor, Texas Chicken & Burgers, that has multiple outlets there. In each case, we will go where we have a core group of people and adequate funding.

Q: Why would a vendor want to be involved in this?

A: Breadcoin vendors have multiple incentives for involvement:

    • additional source of income

    • redemption of tokens for cash monthly

    • promotion as a generous, community-minded vendor

    • eligibility for a micro-loan to grow the business

Q: Why do you emphasize working at the neighborhood level?

A:  Needs are best met in relationship. A one-time gift can be a life-saver in a time of need, but more often than not when someone needs food, there are other issues that also need addressing. So it’s ideal if food is given in the context of someone who can help with other needs.

And the ultimate joy would be if folks needing a meal could ultimately be included at the table with others. Social isolation can be almost as crippling as hunger (and is associated with depression).

Teams in a neighborhood can be sure that all sorts of people working to care for each other in a particular area can work together and not at cross-purposes, creating efficiencies, deeper connections, and a stronger social fabric.

Q: Why is Breadcoin using a physical coin vs. a digital option?

A: We certainly will need to go digital at some point, for ease and for scale. However, our food token was intentionally a weighty physical token to begin with (and will always keep that iteration) because of the beauty of a hand-to-hand gift of food. The very handing-over of it engenders a conversation between two people who might never have otherwise met.

Certainly one person receives food at the (literal) hands of another, but the giver perhaps has the more profound experience of having his or her heart changed by the very potential of encountering someone whose need she or he can meet.

Q: Can Breadcoins be used for anything other than food?

A: Food and drink are the only things that people can get with their Breadcoins. Should someone choose to sell a Breadcoin they receive, the purchaser would ultimately only be able to get food or drink with it.

Q: How is this different than a food pantry or soup kitchen?

A: Breadcoin provides prepared food, not kitchen staples. The food can be eaten in the vendor’s location (in normal times) or taken away to enjoy at home.

Some people have no kitchen facilities at home (or perhaps don’t have a home). Some students don’t have anyone at home to cook for them. Others, for one reason or another, simply can’t put to use the items they might get from a food pantry.

One distinctive of Breadcoin is that those who use them have the choice of locale and menu item. Though calories are appreciated in any form, those who are hungry (once or chronically) are no different than anyone else in having preferences, tastes and a desire for choice in what they eat.

Q: How and why was Breadcoin conceived?

A: Scott Borger and Cary Umhau, co-founders, address this further here.

Q: How does your team decide which neighborhood will use my Breadcoins?

A: We decide based on the prior months’ pattern of redemption. Simply put, the more effectively a neighborhood team distributes Breadcoins (as evidenced by the number of coins that are actually redeemed vs. simply handed out), the more coins they will continue to receive. Our goal is feeding people in the most effective way. Those who build relationships with the hungry and meet those needs are at the core of what we do and are given more resources.

Q: Where does the money I give go?

A: Members‘ (monthly donors’) money goes directly to putting coins into the hands of our neighborhood teams. A $25 donation puts 10 coins into the hands of a team (with a $22 value). $3 goes to costs of running the network (including the initial costs of the coin minting, though each coin circulates multiple times, spreading out that cost).

We are an all-volunteer organization at this point, so our overhead costs are low.

One-time donors’ money goes to our loan pool and to general administrative costs.

Q: How much money does it take to make a significant impact in a neighborhood?

A: At the individual level, every single meal someone receives makes an impact. Anyone who has ever been truly hungry will attest to that. 

On the community level, $100/month, committed, gives Breadcoin the confidence that we can meaningfully impact a new vendor in an area, driving a good bit of business to them. An additional $200-$250/month equips a nonprofit to be part of the distribution network, getting the Breadcoins into the hands of those who will visit the vendors to get a meal.

We balance supply and demand within an area, and thus about 30 people joining us as monthly members will foster significantly more new connections and meals procured withing a given neighborhood.