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Women Who Reign: Maria Rose Belding

“My grace is sufficient for you.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
My name is Maria Rose Belding, and I’m the co-founder/executive director at MEANS Database, a nonprofit tech company working in 49 U.S. states and territories to fight food waste. We built an online platform that allows grocery stores, restaurants and other food retailers with excess food to instantly notify soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other charities nearby.
I was born in Minnesota and grew up in Iowa, and now I’m a full-time undergraduate student at American University in Washington, DC, studying public health on the premed track. (I’m a junior, and premed chem and physics in the same semester is rough, y’all.)

Fun Fact: I am ambidextrous, and my handwriting on both sides is completely different but somehow equally terrible.


What # would define your life journey?

Favorite website / app:
Am I really working for a start-up if my answer isn’t Slack?

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
Karlie Kloss. I met her at the L’Oreal Women of Worth gala when she was assigned to me as her Women of Worth honoree for the evening, and I was so, so nervous. She is not only very kind, but she’s absolutely brilliant. We spent the whole night talking about Ruby-on-Rails, which is the language MEANS is written in and one of the languages Karlie writes in. I’m inspired by Karlie because she refuses to be defined by a single passion or skillset – she’s a very talented model, and she’s a talented businesswoman, and she’s a fantastic coder. She is fighting the narrative that women in tech have to be only in tech, and that they cannot have many other interests and talents, too. I’m also inspired by her kindness. She had absolutely no reason to be nice to this random 19-year-old from rural Iowa who was so out of her league, and she spent the entire night genuinely interested and engaged in conversation with me and my mom. Character is how you treat someone who can offer you nothing in return, and she’s got that in spades.
MR Karlie Kloss - Maria Rose Belding

Favorite Quote:
“My grace is sufficient for you.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9.
My mom has a derivative of this phrase she uses all the time. She’ll tell me to “Grant myself grace,” which is really apt advice. When you’re a raging perfectionist like me, and an achiever at heart, any failure to soar feels like a reflection of your personal inadequacy. I love that Bible verse, and my mom’s take on it, because it reminds me that I am enough, even if I don’t feel like in it a particular moment.  

Song that makes you want to dance:
“I Lived,” One Republic.

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I’ve had a lot of health problems since I was born, and learning to manage them and accept my limitations while also pushing myself forward has been a lifelong journey. They’ve also given me an enormous amount of empathy for people in situations other than mine. A lot of people served by food pantries are categorized as “the undeserving poor” – the kind of people society tends to look down on because of the choices they may or may not have made to land in poverty. I started experiencing clinical depression symptoms before I started elementary school, and although we can’t always get them to go away, over the years I’ve been able to get the help I need to handle them. Many of the people served by food pantries don’t have access to those resources, and so they turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. In another life, with another set of choices on my part, I could be them. I don’t have to understand what it’s like to be an addict or to be a single parent or to be a high school dropout in order to be kind to those who are. The lives of others may be beyond our experience, but they should never be beyond our empathy, and my own challenges have taught me to appreciate that.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
It’s a tie between the impact we have and my teammates. These 16-to-24-year-olds are brilliant and badass, and they show up every day ready to take on a problem that has plagued humanity essentially from day one. They’re in high school and college, and they do the same balancing act as me, with classes and MEANS. I am inspired by them every day, and they never allow me to forget why we do what we do. Together, we’ve helped reroute more than 1.5 million pounds of food to communities in need, and it’s all because of these amazing young people and our amazing mentors, allies and friends in food recovery.  

Ideal Job:
Part-time emergency room physician working in a low-income community; part-time Senator on the HELP committee, fixing our super-broken social safety net and healthcare system; full-time Labradoodle mom.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Show up. Get it done. Take pride in how far you have come, have faith in far you can go, and know that you are absolutely, unequivocally enough.

Learn more about MEANS Database

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