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Finding food: Boise State students create phone app that combats food insecurity

From left to right: Students Issiac Torrero, Tyler Chapman, and Olivia Thomas.{ }
From left to right: Students Issiac Torrero, Tyler Chapman, and Olivia Thomas.
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About 800 students and staff on Boise State's campus are using a phone app that sends alerts to them when free food is available nearby.

This application is designed by a group of Games, Interactive Media & Mobile (GIMM) students who not only learned about technology along the way but how to work with others to create something that benefits a community.

According to Boise State, a 2016 survey revealed that almost half of students at Boise State describe themselves as food insecure.

“The statistic was really eye-opening for sure," said GIMM Major Issiac Torrero "We talked about homelessness and food insecurity as well and I didn't really realize how big of a problem it was on campus.”

Tyler Chapman, an information technology management and GIMM major agreed, "I had no idea the fear the security was on the level it is not only at the university but in the nation as well."

The group took action.

“We ended up talking to some people from food services," said Olivia Thomas, a GIMM and computer science major. "And with that, we came up with this idea of helping to both reduce food excess, because they have a lot of extra food after events, and helping students who are food insecure by sending out notifications about those events.”

“A lot of it has been teaching ourselves along the way,” said Torrero.

And while the students were able to execute their newly learned skills, the campus worked as a space to test the technology.

“The beauty of this is that we can install this on the campus, and we have basically a little micro-community," GIMM Program Director Anthony Ellertson said. "We can see ‘does this technology work well? Does it answer the problems that we’re hoping it does?' And then once we understand that, then I think we can go to the community and say, yes, this does work this is something that others want to consider and maybe implement themselves.”

Ellertson says technology can be used to help.

"We need to have technologies that help us understand each other, and the needs of each other," Ellertson said. "And the fact that we're all here together and we have something that we need to share."

And while the community can benefit through this technology the students learned valuable lessons about problem-solving as well.

“You're just gonna have to start somewhere," said Chapman. "And so I think if you’re at a point in your life where you don't realize like how you can do this or that you can do this, start somewhere and see where it ends up.”

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The app can be downloaded by students and staff in the Apple Store and Google Play.

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