STEM-In-Action Fall Follow Up: Food Finders
Hello again! It's time to check in on our STEM-In-Action Grant winning teams! Over the next few months we will see posts from each of our winning teams to find out what they are up to this fall. In case you're just now tuning in, the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) STEM-In-Action Grant awards eCYBERMISSION teams up to $5,000 to develop their projects into mature and scalable solutions in their community. Typically we award this honorary grant to five teams, but this year ten teams took home the prestigious award. The next team we're catching up with is Food Finders!
Hello! We are Abigail, Liam, and Adithi from team Food Finders in central North Carolina. Currently we are all sophomores in high school. We started our eCYBERMISSION project in our freshmen year and it was our first time participating in the competition. We found out about the competition when Adithi was searching for STEM enrichment activities. Liam and Abigail then joined the team. We knew each other from middle school and thought that we would make a good team, though we had never worked together before. eCYBERMISSION appealed to us because it was a fun and engaging yet safe way to get involved given the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
After we formed our team, the hardest part was coming up with an approachable but unique problem to tackle. After countless hours of scouring the Internet and brainstorming sessions, we realized that two issues - food waste and child hunger - are interconnected. Grocery stores throw away 52 billion pounds of food every year. Meanwhile, 1 in 7 children in the U.S. face food insecurity.
From the issues we found, we developed a solution. By donating excess produce - in a sellable but still consumable state - to schools, we can mitigate child hunger and food waste. Our proposed solution is an app where grocery stores can post excess produce. Schools with a high population of disadvantaged students can then receive the excess produce.
Since June, we have been working on planning the logistics of the project on a more in-depth scale. We also hired a developer to assist us with coding our app. Our developer mostly focuses on the back-end functionality of our app while we work on the front-end user interface. Also, we meet on a weekly basis as a team to discuss progress in coding and work on code documentation. We plan to use our STEM-In-Action Grant to pay the developer and for any costs we incur in transporting food.
During this time, we have encountered a few obstacles preventing us from proceeding with our original idea. For example, we realized that coordinating directly with schools is a very difficult logistical process because of liabilities. Also, our app relies on volunteers to distribute food and it is hard to get people involved during school hours when many volunteers have work. This obstacle caused us to rethink distribution and consider donating produce to nonprofits working to end child hunger rather than schools. Another benefit for donating to nonprofits is the program can continue even during the summer months when school isn’t in session.
We would like to thank eCYBERMISSION for this opportunity to implement our solution in the real world.
Thanks for reading and we hope you’ll continue following us!