September 30, 2020

Next City Profiles Our STL Hunger Shift Hackathon to Alleviate Food Insecurity

Next City has published a recap of our recent STL Hunger Shift Hackathon event that focused on surfacing ideas to alleviate food insecurity in Missouri and beyond.

Already a critical issue before the COVID pandemic, food insecurity has been amplified during the ongoing crisis. Representatives from the St. Louis Food Bank shared they have experienced a 43% increase in demand, with 68% of its visitors seeking assistance for the first time. The food bank is averaging 3.5 million meals a month and has provided more than 26.7 million from March 16-August 30.

During the hack, local leaders from all market sectors spent an afternoon divided into teams to look at four possible lanes for solutions: creating more access points to food, identifying and converting vacant spaces into food-producing spaces, connecting food insecure citizens with resources as they need them, and providing financial services and tools for low-to-moderate income people to maximize their ability to find fresh food.

“What really knocked me out was the sheer number of things going on in St. Louis, that even people in the room weren’t aware of,” said Eric Corey Freed, co-facilitator for the event and our Director of Sustinability. Examples of local action include:

LINK Market works to bring fresh food options source from local farmers via small kiosks to transit stations that are otherwise seas of concrete in areas that can’t support an entire grocery store. Operation Food Search and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment glean fields after harvest, making fresh produce that would otherwise be wasted available. There are urban farms quietly germinating in individual backyards or neighborhood lots. And GiftAMeal is a restaurant-supported platform that allows diners to easily purchase meals for those in need while they’re dining out, simply by snapping a photo.

Ultimately, Hack participants focused on three ideas they plan to continue to advance

  • Local CSA: Establish a box pick-up program at community churches, convenience and corner stores or community retailers to create greater access to fresh food. Boxes can include QR codes for recipes, financial literacy education resources and more.
  • App: Create an app that provides food insecure community members with real time access to food resources (could include CSA details above). Engage the city’s incredible technology talent to help.
  • Seed Fund and Entrepreneurial Support: Create a Community Pitch Day when people from communities can come forward to pitch their ideas for helping food insecure neighbors. Community residents can vote on the ideas they like best and winning idea(s) gets seed funding and entrepreneurial support.

Our St. Louis team and the numerous participants are exited to build on the momentum of the Hack and continue to push the ideas forward.