Food Finder

An application-based learning experience, where students become excited, engaged, and educated about agriculture and sustainable farming.

Photo of Sam  Rousch
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Date You Started Your Project Started

March 1, 2020

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Almost 48% of the average American doesn't know where their food comes from. But with agriculture affecting everything in our daily lives, from the food we put on the table to everyday products created from agricultural materials, only 2% of Americans live on farms, meaning most people don’t understand the importance agriculture plays on our society. This is creating a gap between agriculture and the consumer, a gap that starts at a young age.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Our solution to agriculture illiteracy is Food Finder. Food Finder is an interactive application, where students learn the backstory of their produce. The process starts when the teacher downloads the free app and registers their location along with their students. Students then download the app on their devices and sign in. Using Food Finder, the student scans a piece of produce to add to their virtual ‘Food Binder’. The app then recognizes the piece of produce and tells the student a few facts about the produce and how it was sustainably farmed. After reading, the student then has the chance to answer some short questions. Not only will Food Finder provide students with the education experience, but it will also give the students the chance to earn points. By scanning in a piece of produce, students will earn a certain number of fixed points, based on type of produce and location of the student. More exotic produce to a location will receive more points. By answering questions about their reading, students will also be able to earn points. Points that are accumulated will be projected on a class-wide leaderboard, where teachers can reward students and provide a competitive edge.

3. Using STEM as a force of good: Please specify how are you using STEM to solve for an environmental challenge you are passionate about.

Using our knowledge of STEM to solve this unique issue, we knew that we needed a unique and innovative solution. Agricultural illiteracy is an older issue that needs to be introduced to a new generation. To bridge the gap, we decided to put our STEM innovation skills to work to design an app-based learning experience. Students already use their devices for games and school work, so by bringing a common idea to introduce something new, we believe our idea will spark interest in the young minds of students. By engineering the idea of an AI based app, kids are able to learn more about the world around them. Introducing the idea of sustainable farming practices to students, Food Finder conveys the message of the labor and resources it takes to make our food. By finding out where their food comes from, we hope to inspire students to reduce waste. Because of this, students will have a better understanding and appreciation for their environment and the resources around them. We aim to grow their passion for science and engineering, sparking up their creativity and innovation for change.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

We are part of a larger organization of young changemakers, dedicated to making the world a better place through food rescue and fighting food insecurity. We recently visited one of our district’s elementary schools to educate a third grade class on food waste and insecurity. The students learned about the different ways to identify ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parts of produce and then applied that knowledge hands on. We brought the students snap peas to help sort through and taught them even though their food may seem bad, it can still be used, either by putting it into compost or by donating and transforming it for someone in need. The students were amazed at the knowledge they had learned and the impact they were making by simply snapping some peas. We were inspired by this experience and saw that if students had the resources to learn about the world around them, they will leap to it.

5. Video (Keep it simple, a video made on a hand-held phone is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

When we were brainstorming solutions to the problem of agricultural illiteracy, we came up with many innovations. After narrowing down our ideas, we came to our top two ideas; an at-home hydroponics kit, where students can grow a garden through sustainable farming techniques and an app-based learning experience where students learn more about agricultural practices. Through research and planning, we found that Food Finder was the option that fits our problem and our community effectively.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

For the normal classroom setting, students listen to a lecture about a topic and are expected to retain that information. But with Food Finder, students are able to use technology and the resources around them to learn about their environment. Instead of sitting in a classroom setting, students can be outdoors in their garden, at the supermarket, or in their own home, learning about their produce. The flexibility helps the students become more interested in what they are learning about and retaining information. Through Food Finder, students become more passionate about the world around them.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made?

Our team has only been working on this project since the beginning of March, so we unfortunately haven’t been able to test our idea out with students in the classroom yet. However, we have taken this time away from each other to grow our idea and solidify any kinks in our project. When it is programmed and released, we believe it will have a monumental impact on the way students view their food and the world around them. By learning about where their food came from, they will have a deeper understanding of the labor and processes that have gone into making the food they see before them. We believe that students will be less inclined to wasting their food and will become more willing to help the environment around them.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

With the current situation of the pandemic, we have taken to working remotely. Our team has taken this time as an opportunity to grow and plan our project before implementation. We plan to have the app programmed within the next few months as we near summer and will have much more time to dedicate to this project. We hope by the start of the next school year, we will be able to have students and teachers actively working with the Food Finder in their classroom, learning about sustainable farming practices around them.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

Our team is part of a larger organization of high school students who are committed to ending the poverty and hunger cycles. Through the implementation of our app, we believe that students will become more aware of the issue of food waste in their community. After researching and learning the facts of food insecurity and food waste, we were inspired to make a change. We hope to ignite this same spark in changemakers like us and future changemakers in our community, through Food Finder.

11. Please share ideas of how you can partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

To implement our app and make an impact, we will team up with other young changemakers who are passionate about making a difference. Collaboration is key to spreading our idea and we believe that every student should have the chance to learn about agriculture in their community. By connecting with other changemakers, we can extend our mission to other parts of the country. We believe that by combining with changemakers that share the same goals and passion, we can make a difference in the world.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

By using the common principle of an interactive app, we are able to attract both the teacher and the student. The teacher can use Food Finder as an interactive educational experience for their students while tracking how many fruits and vegetables students eat to promote nutritional practices. The student achieves a fun experience while competing against their classmates. Food Finder combines both of these views and creates an educational, exciting, and engaging experience for the user.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges
  • Email

Evaluation results

19 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 84.2%

Probably - 5.3%

Maybe - 5.3%

Probably not - 5.3%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 68.4%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 15.8%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 10.5%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 5.3%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 84.2%

4 - Yes, I think so - 0%

3 - Maybe - 15.8%

2 - Probably not. - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 100%

4 - Yes, I think so - 12.5%

3 - Maybe - 12.5%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 68.4%

4 - Yes, I think so - 26.3%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not - 5.3%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 75%

4- Yes, I think so - 8.3%

3- Maybe - 8.3%

2- Probably not - 8.3%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 100%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 100%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 77.8%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 44.4%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 55.6%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 66.7%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 0%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 40%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 40%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 40%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 100%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 80%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 60%

Other option - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mike Eck

Very clever idea. You can believe in JEE FOODS. They have a proven track record and sustainable model.

Photo of Alayna Meade

Thank you, Mike Eck ! We appreciate your support for our mission and project! 

Photo of Michelle

What a wonderful idea! This app is not only good for students but for adults as well. Knowing the process involved in food production and where your food comes from is key to establishing an awareness of balancing your intake of fruits and vegetables, and consuming healthy foods

Photo of Alayna Meade

Thank you, Michelle for your support! We agree, by showing the backstory of produce, everyone will have a better understanding and appreciation of their fruits and vegetables!

Photo of Alexander Forchette

This is an awesome app idea! I love how you have implemented a competitive gaming aspect into the educational app. I am curious how you will be developing this app, and if you will be using AI. Also, where will you be getting the information about the produce? Just a thought: if you are unable to use AI Image Recognition in the app, you could have the students search for produce by name, or pre-populated pictures (similar to self checkout at a grocery store). Then after learning about the produce, the student could receive extra points by submitting their own photo. You hit on a very important aspect of changemaking with this project: education is the best tool provide to someone. This team is very creative, and the app is well thought out. Also, great job on the video, that was very cool! Keep it up, this app is a great step towards a brighter future! Thank you.

Photo of Alayna Meade

Thank you, Alexander Forchette ! To develop the app, we are looking into using Apple's developer tools to build and publish Food Finder. We plan to AI, by using a branch of IBM's Watson that is specifically designed to identify food for the app. We really like your suggestion of a searchable database within Food Finder for students to look up their produce as well and we are hoping to look into that possibility for Food Finder as well as the AI. We plan to collect our information for the produce from a variety of sources, including our own personal research and possibly talking to farmers and agriculture experts in our area. I hope this helps!

Photo of Nell

Great idea! I really appreciate the dedication to making change that I've seen from your team. I would like to know more about the information about each piece of produce that shows up on the app: is it general information about sustainable farming or is it more personalized to a specific piece of produce? I think this is a cool way to inspire students to be more mindful of the environment and where their food comes from.

Photo of Alayna Meade

Thank you, Nell ! To answer your question, when the student scans a piece of produce, Food Finder will display sustainable farming practices for each type of produce. For example, it will display practices used for apples differently than practices used for bananas. I hope this helps!