Food Resource Locator App for the Food-Insecure
Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?
Eligibility: Date of Birth
Where are you located:
Our home is in Hinsdale, IL (60521), where Phillip is a high school sophomore; James currently studies at Harvard College in Cambridge, MA
We impact over 1142 zip codes in 17 states, and counting:
California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia
**The individual zip codes are too numerous to list within the character limit. We would be happy to provide details.
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)
1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."
My brother and I grew up in an affluent neighborhood outside of Chicago. In our minds, hunger was a problem that affected poor people in the inner city. We were surprised to learn that 1 in 7 Americans, including some of our neighbors, faced food insecurity. While working at our community food pantry, we met clients who reported difficulty finding our location. Others showed up on the wrong day or lacking the necessary documentation. We thought that if a phone application could help people find the lowest gas prices and nearest Starbucks, we could create an app that helped hungry people find food. That idea launched Got Food?
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Food insecurity affects 41 million Americans, approximately 1 in 7 people. Many of our neighbors do not know where their next meal will come from. While there are efforts to provide relief through food pantries and soup kitchens, the food insecure population and the people who care for them do not reliably know how to access these resources. By creating a centralized database and location-based service, we help hungry people find food.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Got Food? is a free phone app that helps the user find nearby food pantries, soup kitchens, and summer feeding sites. Currently, our database of food resources includes 2800 agencies in 17 states. To date, our app has been downloaded by over 2000 Apple and Android users whom we know also include doctors, social workers, and first responders. We started our database through an initial partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, our local food bank. As interest and usage grew, we reached out to Feeding America and through our collaboration, we now partner with 18 food banks across the country that regularly supply information to update our database. In addition, we encourage users and food providers to input their data directly through our website. Our goal is to cover every corner of America. Recently, we initiated a new function that allows people to access assistance in applying for SNAP benefits through the Got Food? app. We regularly solicit feedback from all users to ensure the accuracy of our information.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
When the user opens Got Food?, he either enters a zip code or asks the app to pinpoint his location. Then, he selects to view just food pantries, just soup kitchens, just summer feeding sites, or all together. Once he chooses the most convenient food pantry, soup kitchen, or summer feeding site to visit, he is provided with location-specific information such as the address, phone number, and hours. In addition, the user is alerted to any special requirements for participation unique to a feeding site. To get a better sense of the app and how it works, I encourage you to download “Got Food?” on the Apple Store or Google Play Store. When a food provider joins our database, it commits to regularly providing accurate information regarding its site. In return, the provider's ability to serve its target population is broadened and simplified.
5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
While regional databases may exist, they are often difficult to navigate and not readily accessible. To our knowledge, Got Food? is the only smartphone application for the purpose of finding food resources. Our ease of use allows it to be utilized by clients and food providers alike. We also provide unique features including location-based services and specific instructions. This helps increase access. Additionally, we are trying to centralize public and private resources for the food insecure population.
6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
We've received feedback that Got Food? is incredibly user-friendly and recently heard that one of our neighbors use it regularly to find food. It has been incorporated into the food insecurity screening performed in the Cook County Health & Hospitals System's clinics. The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed our app to its Illinois members. Other organizations have begun to reach out to us seeking permission to promote our app and develop additional partnerships. We truly feel that our app has the capability of broadening the reach of the many entities fighting hunger. As mentioned earlier, Got Food? touches the lives of thousands of Americans and the people who care for them.
7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
While we have penetrated some regions of the US very well, the hungriest states are yet to join our network. Our previous outreach campaigns were done through email and paper mailings. We need to repeat our outreach attempts periodically to reach all 50 states. We have been asked by Hunger Free America (New York) to develop crowdsourcing capability. Additionally, we would like to have Got Food? preloaded on all government-issued cellphones. Finally, we dream of developing a mechanism to allow people to donate money to needy individuals to be strictly used for food.
8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?
Today we have more ideas than money. As our goals become more sophisticated, our own programming skills must develop. Financial support would provide us with additional training as well as supplement our skill set with programming consultants to implement our more complicated features. Our planned outreach will also require some funding. We believe that having the support of T-Mobile and Ashoka will provide a platform for us as we try to form relationships with government entities.
9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.
We recognize that there are others that work on issues related to food insecurity such as homelessness. We would welcome providing our resource along with other resources targeting related socioeconomic problems as a package to needy individuals. We have been very receptive to ideas offered by others working on food insecurity as described above and we would continue to welcome new ideas.
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?
Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?
How did you hear about this challenge?
Recommended by others
Word of mouth
Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?
Harvard College through Facebook