In America, households waste an estimated $240 billion in food per year. [^1] In November 2020, 1 in 8 Americans sometimes, or often, didn't have enough food [^2]. That’s $10,000 a year of food per person in need of food. The question then is: how do we route the food that’s going to be wasted away from compost and landfills and into the hands of those who need it? In the midst of COVID-19, there are more people than ever in need of food, but there is considerably less opportunity to connect the people who are able to give to those who are in need. As active college students cooking for ourselves more often in pandemic times, it is frustrating to run into the situation of buying too much groceries and having some go to waste, because they can’t be eaten in time.

Several avenues for people to donate food currently exist: food drives, food banks, community organizations to name a few. Food banks, however, often have strict requirements for the food that they accept, and a middle party in general can just pose extra barriers to getting food to those who need it. A more decentralized approach to food donation could make it easier for individuals to donate food to the people who need it or to the existing entities that manage food donations (i.e. food banks).

[^1]: Department of Agriculture's National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey
[^2]: Washington Post

What it does

Our application, FoodCycle, allows people with a surplus of food (that may go to waste) to donate their food to others in need in their local communities by posting details of their food (including type, quantity, and time availability for pickup) to a feed within the app. Those in need of additional food can use the app to view food donations by others in their local area and find a convenient time and location to pick it up. Individuals or organizations who manage food donations can also act as a recipient.

How we built it

We built this project using React Native (and related technologies like JavaScript and Expo Go) for the front-end; Django, Python, and Heroku to develop the back-end; and Figma to design the wireframes and theme.

We chose to use React Native because a few of our members were familiar with JavaScript & React and because React Native allowed us to develop an application for iOS and Android simultaneously. Expo Go is also especially handy as it allowed us to view changes to our app in real-time as it developed. One of our members had some experience with Django and Python, which led us to use these technologies as the backbone of our back-end. Figma is also great as it is perfect for building wireframes for mobile applications and is simple to use.

Challenges we ran into

  • Deciding the user navigation of the app and what data we would need from the user: We decided to take a minimalist approach and avoid user accounts and sign-ins (for now). After some thinking, we decided the most important information to get from the user was the type of food, pickup locations (for those who are donating), travel radius (for those hoping to find donated food), and time availability (so that donors and recipients could connect conveniently.

  • Deploying our back-end to a server: It was somewhat difficult to understand how to connect the various technologies (Django and Heroku) though the various APIs and requirements.

  • Connecting the front-end to the back-end: specifically getting user submitted information to be stored on the server (to be viewed by others using the app). We had little to no experience doing this as a group, so we had to do a significant amount of research and trial-and-error.

Accomplishments that we're proud of / What we learned

We are most proud of the amount of knowledge and experience we gained in a variety of technologies, including ones that we had little prior experience with. It was very satisfying to take develop an idea from a conversion, create an initial design, build a working (albeit quite basic) user interface, and ultimately tie it all together with a backend to do the magic.

What's next for FoodCycle

Though we did not expect to fully complete our application in under 24 hours, we are proud of what we made and learned. We hope that we can return to this project in the future and encourage people to become aware of their food waste and how they can contribute to their local communities.

Share this project: