Inspiration

Livestock itself has a significantly negative impact on the environment. Not only does raising livestock take up the majority of previously forested areas in South America, but vast amounts of land are taken up to grow animal feed. Growing this feed also requires a substantial amount of water, with 27% of water used by humans going towards growing animal feed. The waste from farm animals is also 50 times greater than the waste from the population of the United States, leading to water pollution and contamination. Furthermore, the process of raising livestock and putting meat in the store makes up 15% of all emissions produced by humans. Additionally, an animal consumes about 6 times more protein than the amount of protein that we consume by eating it. If we as a society collectively opt for a more plant-based diet, there will simply be more food for everyone around the world to eat, and the hunger crisis will be greatly abated. Simply cutting out a little bit of meat from your diet can clearly have a substantial impact on the environment and the world.

That said, our team understands the difficulty in transition to a low-meat or meatless diet. The slow adoption of meat reduction is being driven by several factors, but we suspect that one of these factors (and perhaps one of the most prevalent) is that of the pervasive belief that vegetarian or vegan diets result in protein or nutrient deficiencies. While this belief is held by many, it is patently untrue - a balanced vegan or vegetarian diet is fully capable of providing all nutrients and micronutrients required for optimal nutrition. Unfortunately, many people both in developed and undeveloped countries do not eat a balanced diet, be it due to the unavailability of a diverse selection of foods, or simply an inability to spare the time needed to manage ones diet properly. Our team aimed to solve the latter problem by designing an application that would allow users to create highly customized and appealing vegetarian or vegan meal plans, with the assumption that if all of the time-consuming and mind-numbing meal planning is eliminated more people will be open to exploring meat-reduction, and more likely to stick to such diets. We also aimed to provide a carbon footprint summary for each plan, and an analysis of how it compares to meat-inclusive meals in an attempt to highlight and reinforce the positive environmental impact generated from adhering to the meal plans.

What it does

As it stands aMEALiorate is a largely static site that allows visitors to generate novel vegan meal plans from a set of ~150 curated recipes (50 for each meal).

How we built it

We intended to have a front-end built with React, a back-end RESTful API built with Go, and a MongoDB cluster serving as a database for user accounts, recipes, and recipe plans. Additionally, Python was used for web scraping purposes. Netlify was our chosen hosting platform for the front-end.

Challenges we ran into

Well, for starters the Constraint Satisfaction Problem that we aimed to solve turned out to be a lot more complex than we anticipated, and delays in other aspects of the project led to us lacking the time required to flesh out and test a solution. We were also largely hampered by difficulties in properly generating our recipe/nutrition data set, and then unforeseen local technical difficulties related to Go. Technical difficulties aside, all of us were wholly unfamiliar with Go, and while learning the language was a lot of fun and greatly useful, we were occasionally hampered by seemingly obscure documentation and nuances in Go code.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Learning as much Go as we did (we finally got a basic server running and were fleshing out the API before we eventually had to abandon it), and persevering through frequent roadblocks.

What we learned

All of us undoubtedly grew as developers, and in addition to learning a new (and really quite lovely) programming language we all learned a lot about project management, system design, and high-pressure collaboration.

What's next for aMEALiorate

After the deadline we plan to continue developing the project (perhaps at a reduced rate), and gradually expand it into a sophisticated meal planning/food management app laser-focused on helping reduce carbon emissions and resource wastage while providing users an extremely useful and perhaps life changing tool that allows them to reclaim both time, and nutrition. Ideally the app will allow the users to specify increasingly advanced nutrition preferences such as micronutrients, macro ratios, or food likes/dislikes, encourage healthy eating by introducing a social media aspect (social feeds + a reward system for making the recipes powered by meal recognition AI), and allow users to also specify budget constraints so that the app can also help them minimize expenditures while allowing them to eat healthier and help the planet.

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