STEM-In-Action Fall Follow Up: Pantry Patrol

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 Pantry Patrol!


Hello there! We are team Pantry Patrol, and we would like to update you on our project since receiving the eCYBERMISSION Stem-In-Action Grant. Our team consists of Abhinav Meduri, Arnav Meduri, and Siddharth Maruvada, 10th graders from William G. Enloe High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Our mission is to find innovative ways to reduce the interrelated issues of food waste and food insecurity.

Last year, all of our lives were turned upside down when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Thousands of people were dying from the virus, and we heard about the topic of food insecurity through the press and media. Sure, we have always heard this is a big problem in third world countries, but in the world’s richest country, United States America? When we heard the staggering statistic that nearly 40% of food in America goes to waste, while more than 35 million Americans were food insecure during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, it got us interested to learn more about the problem and motivated us to find solutions.

With guidance from Dr. Alice Ammerman of UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and Mr. Gideon Adams of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, we designed Pantry Patrol to be a multi-platform application with unique food pantry management features. Our application allows for the recording of household information, including dietary preferences and allergies. By having this information at their fingertips, food pantry volunteers can ensure that a household only receives food that they are likely to consume while packing a donation box. This avoids food waste, while allowing food pantries to stretch their resources to serve even more households. We were ecstatic and thrilled beyond belief when we won the 9th grade eCYBERMISSION nationals, as well as received a STEM-In-Action Grant to further pursue our dream project. We celebrated our achievement with an ice cream party during summer holidays with some of our mentors who have been helping us along our journey.

One of our main goals with the STEM-In-Action Grant is to reach out to more food pantries and help more communities in need. Our future plans include evolving Pantry Patrol from pilot to production quality, develop training and supporting materials, and build a self-sustaining community around our initiative. The STEM-In-Action Grant will enable us to pursue these goals and we are very thankful to AEOP and eCYBERMISSION organizations for funding our work.

So what have we been doing lately? Right after the initial STEM-In-Action meeting, our team got down to work quickly. In an effort to understand how food pantry operations work better, we created a survey and reached out to more than 10 food pantries in our area by making calls and sending emails. The food pantries were very receptive to our requests for an interview and survey, and we had an opportunity to talk to many of them over the phone. We are working on processing our new learnings into a set of requirements to improve Pantry Patrol.

As we continue our journey of making Pantry Patrol more useful to our community, we also see the need to develop additional support and training materials to help food pantry staff get acclimated to our application. We also believe that household-level education is important, and plan on developing resources to increase awareness of food waste and food insecurity-related issues. We believe that achieving these goals will help us build a self-sustaining community to support our application and initiatives to reduce food waste.


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