Why an app for food photos caught the attention of some of YouTube's biggest stars

That small sense of vanity that comes with posting food photos online has totally disappeared.

Thanks to a new food photo centric app called Dysh, your constant browsing and liking photos can actually do some good. The more you earn points in the app through those basic actions, the more “meals will be donated to feed the hungry.”

Dysh, which launched in February 2016, has four primary functions. The main social feed, which acts similarly to your Instagram feed, lets you catch up on anyone you follow on the app and see what they have been eating, where they ate it, and what they rated it.

Then there’s the utility function of it: based on your location, you can see restaurants in your area and the dishes other Dysh users have enjoyed (or not). Next is the Explore tab, which acts as a collection of community-based photos surrounding a certain themed hashtag. (At the time of writing, the current feature is #SLICESLICEBABY, where people can show off slices of pizza to see who found the best one.) The fourth area of the app is your own personal profile, where you can post your own food photography, and “no one can give you crap about it.”

That’s according to Hannah Hart, one of the four founding “Taste Buds” of Dysh.

“When I get fired up about something, I want to contribute all of myself,” Hart tells Tech Insider. Her enthusiasm for the project, and for food puns, during our interview is infectious.

(Her favourite hashtag theme so far is #HowToGetAwayWithBurger where, you guessed it, people competed for the most likes and to find the best burger.)

Hart’s YouTube channel has nearly 2.5 million subscribers. Combine that with the reach of the other Taste Buds Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, and Ingrid Nilsen, and they have just over 10 million YouTube subscribers.

That group of social media powerhouses, all of whom have highly active Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts to interact

with even more fans, joined the Dysh team in March, and their combined forces drive much-needed traffic to the app.

A livestream held on April 16 lovingly titled “Brunch of Idiots,” brought “a huge surge of engagement,” Lauren Bartel, the director of marketing and communications for Dysh, told Tech Insider.

One of the differences between Dysh and Instagram, where users already post plenty of food photos, is that it’s bulit around eliminating the potential “shame” users might feel.

“I hear about that feeling,” said Hart, laughing. “I lack that self-awareness, and my ‘haterade’ is so blocked” that she never felt shame when posting food on Instagram to begin with. But there is a rising, if small, backlash against users who do it too often. It discourages people from posting those kinds of pictures.

“Dysh is a safe space for food photography,” said Hart.

With the addition of #DyshFeeds, the charity initiative, there’s even more reason for people to participate with the app.

“We’re giving people a chance to get in at the beginning of something big,” she said, and explained that was one of the most exciting parts of things to her, the feeling of being at the start of something new and wonderful. The donation aspect of Dysh is unlike a lot of other apps right now.

She remembers the old online vocabulary game, Free Rice. By answering basic questions, players could donate grains of rice to those in need. With Dysh, they’re trying to bring back that “passive participation,” so users can do good without having to lift any extra fingers.

“Each status level has a cute, different character,” said Bartel. For example, you’re a “Nibbling Newbie” when you first join. “You can see how far you are until you reach the next status. The app also shows how many meals we’ve donated on a user’s behalf.”

#DyshFeeds donates to many non-profit charities across the United States as users advance in the game aspect of the app and reach higher levels.

According to an online disclaimer from Dysh, they provide the donations themselves, but cap them at “10,000 meals each month, made through an equivalent monetary donation to a hunger-related non-profit.”

“We would love to support unlimited donations and help as many people as possible, but we cannot afford that quite yet,” the disclaimer also stated.

“We here in the first world really need to re-frame how we participate toward social good,” said Hart. “We’re taught it’s about having money or giving the most money, and we need to get that out of our heads. The way technology has advanced is not similar to the way our relationship to charity has advanced.”

“The more you participate,” Hart said, “the more you work toward real life food donations. If that doesn’t inspire somebody to use an app, I don’t know what will.”

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