Feature stories

An app to wipe out hunger

Park Slope high school students win award for connecting kids with meals

An app to wipe out hungerJonathan FickiesAbove: Teacher Jason Slabodsky (back row, second from right) and members of the team that created the award-winning app at the Secondary School for Journalism in Brooklyn show off their trophy. Raise high the roof at the Secondary School for Journalism in Brooklyn. No longer can the pride of 11 computer science seniors be contained.

Those seniors have won a national award for an app that connects hungry students at their high school to local restaurants with food to spare. The problem of hunger is a real one for the Park Slope school, where nearly 80 percent of the students qualify for free lunch.

The app they designed works like this: Restaurants sign up to donate their excess food to students in need. Eligible students log on to the app and see what restaurants are participating. They can reserve an evening meal at one and pick it up. To reduce any stigma, the creators have replaced the phrase “doggy bag” with “swag bag.”

“These kids have every big and small thing stacked against them,” said their AP tech teacher Jason Slabodsky, who guided their work. “They are not part of the wealthy in Park Slope. But that didn’t stop them from accomplishing something amazing and bringing the school and the community with them!”

The ingenious app was one of three national winners of the prestigious Samsung Solve for Tomorrow award. The kids came up with the idea, designed the app and analytics, and then pitched their plan to judges in Washington, D.C.

“We went up against elite public and private high schools and the other finalists looked cool and collected, you know, casual, like they expected to win,” said Louric Rankine, who heads to Lawrence University in Wisconsin on a full scholarship in September. “We were not casual. When they announced we’d won, we jumped up and down and went crazy with joy.”

Beyond the recognition, the Secondary School for Journalism, which is on the ground floor of a building that houses three other schools, will receive $150,000 in Samsung electronics, including cameras, laptops and teleprompters.

“Our school will have an actual digital newsroom,” said Slabodsky.

The young innovators are now busy pounding the pavement to recruit more restaurants. The app will go live for a dry run on June 16.

Student Teriqq Plowden says he will feel his team has been successful when kids no longer hang out after school just to eat the provided snack. “Kids say stuff like, ‘Hey man, can you buy me a slice of pizza and I’ll pay you back. They know and you know they can’t pay you back,” said Plowden. “I understand what they’re doing because I was one of those hungry students.”

Learn more on the Moesy website and watch the video on Vimeo.

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