Do all of the problems we face require huge investments and extensive bureaucracy to solve them? Or, can a different way of thinking and some data create small (but scalable) solutions? Can we make a difference, not by solving massive problems, but by creating one positive outcome at a time? These are the questions that Dan Gillis1 and Danny Williamson2 asked early in 2012. Searching for a community problem to tackle, they took several supportive, but unsuccessful meetings.
A friendly suggestion pointed them towards the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship at the University of Guelph (U of G). Without delay, Linda Hawkins3and her team connected them with the Guelph Wellington Food Access Working Group (FAWG). The Farm To Fork (F2F) team learned an important lesson from FAWG: the quantity of food available at food banks and food pantries will always be a challenge, but these agencies face another pressing concern. Often, those most in need of food support are subject to the poorest quality food: fewer fresh vegetables, fruits and meats; and more white breads and pastas. The challenge? How do we make sure our neighbours in need have access to the right kind of food to help get them back on their feet?
The F2F solution? Instead of being reliant on blind donations from donors, why not let food banks and food pantries tell donors what they need on a weekly basis and then let donors tell them what they will provide? Working with students from the University of Guelph, the F2F team created two prototypes of a web interface that will connect farmers, backyard gardeners, and citizens to food pantries and food banks in their area. This winter, Dan, Danny, and U of G students are preparing a final prototype for spring beta testing.
1 Assistant Professor, School of Computer Science, U of G.
2 Consultant, Williamson Consulting.
3 Director, Institute For Community Engaged Scholarship, U of G.