Hacking to End Childhood Hunger in Chicago

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Q&A with Dave VanderKloot, Manager of Software Engineering

According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, each day, one in six Chicago families (including one in five children) don’t know where their next meal will come from. In order to approach the issue from a different angle, the Greater Chicago Food Depository hosted its first all-day hackathon, inviting technologists and engineers from around the city to compete to develop software and technology solutions to help solve the growing problem of childhood hunger.

PowerReviews is proud to support our local community and was a sponsor of the event. In addition, seven PowerReviews team members participated in the Hackathon.

This week, we sat down with Dave VanderKloot, Manager of Software Engineering, to hear more about the hackathon and the innovative technology solutions the team developed to help solve childhood hunger in Chicago.


PowerReviews: Why did you decide to participate in the Hackathon to End Hunger?

Dave: Hunger is an important issue in our city (and beyond), and technology can help make a dent in solving this issue. According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, childhood hunger is a largely preventable problem — there are enough food and resources available. Being able to use technology to help make a difference sounded like a great opportunity.

PowerReviews: Tell us about the projects the PowerReviews team worked on to hack hunger.

Dave: Seven PowerReviews participants were part of two different teams — in conjunction with employees from Jellyvision and Sprout Social.

One of the teams (also selected the winner) proposed gamifying the experience of receiving meals with a location-based mobile app, a la Pokémon Go. The idea is to encourage participation and remove some of the stigma associated with using these meal programs. The app could also collect meal feedback from users, and provide game-based rewards. The team proposed partnering with Niantic Pokémon Go (and/or future popular location-based games).

The other team built a RESTful API that allows a user to search for locations that provide free meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks) for children during the summer. The API delivers location-based results as well as details on meal times and hours. A mobile-friendly front-end was built to showcase the API, and a clean data model was designed for storing the location/provider data, as well as a service for keeping the data updated.

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