In our society--particularly in the current political atmosphere, people in need are stigmatized. Widescale dehumanization of the homeless population and thoughtless ableism are everywhere. At the same time, so many people are mindlessly taking for granted the resources that they do have - in particular with regards to food. As such, we are combating both of these issues by leveraging technology to reduce our food waste and create a communities where people are mindful of all their neighbors.
What it does
Our app, TOGO, encourages people to share their meals with people who are disadvantaged. Many people have leftovers from eating out and often just throw out the rest of the their food. TOGO allows them to bring that food to someone in need, simultaneously reducing food waste and forging a more personal connection between the two people. Using our mobile app, prospective users are shown a feed or map of nearby 'meal shares' sorted by closest geographical distance. We prompt users who post to self evaluate and post photos and descriptions of their leftover food items, so that both parties can be mindful of the food exchange between people. Through TOGO's app, users in need can at the same time choose to contact any of the people offering to share food. The core piece of TOGO is the seamless experience with built in safety measures (user privacy) and navigation for two parties to meet.
How we built it
A large focus of our application was accessibility, which informed our choice to use Corona as a cross-platform SDK to first make the app available on both iOS and Android. We built up a full two way user experience in Corona which we connected with our Firebase and Node.js backend. For persisted states like user information, authentication, sessions, and listings, we used Firebase as our primary database for storing both JSON and image data. We later drafted a Node.js backend in order to add additional push notification and SMS as an alternative, more accessible notification mechanism (as opposed to a smart phone app, if that is unavailable) to our app. We integrated Google maps APIs as well to provide location context and navigation for users.
Challenges we ran into
One of the major issues which we encountered was making sure that our Corona code was compatible with the Firebase backend. We chose to use a Firebase plugin available for Corona with somewhat limited functionality, so we were forced to adjust some aspects of our app design and personally implement some Firebase features in order to ensure a smooth user experience. Another challenge was implementing the push notifications and texting features in our app. In order to add this functionality, we had to add an entirely separate Node.js server to handle the requests.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
The TOGO team's greatest success was in our ability to conceptualize and implement an extensive user experience that takes a big step towards being accessible to bridging a hard to reach population and also is easy to use for all parties. We recognized that while smartphones are ubiquitous, and even common within traditionally disadvantaged communities, SMS would enable a much wider reach to those most in need. By the end of the hackathon, our team was able to work separately to make significant progress on the wide smattering of features, but also together to adapt to challenges and to connect cohesively.
What we learned
Our team was relatively new to mobile development so a lot of the technological aspects associated with app development were new to us. In addition, in the course of developing our app, our team grew in our understanding of development for social good.
What's next for TOGO
In a technical sense, some major areas of improvement would be to expand our user functionality. Additionally, we hope to make our app more accessible to people who might not have access to a smartphone so adding greater more extensive support for SMS in all parts of the exchange process is a high priority.
Apart from the technical aspects of our project, our mission itself is reliant upon community engagement and feedback. One major goal that we had would be to engage with community members and establish certain 'TOGO' spots in well-lit, well-trafficked areas in order to make sure that all parties would feel safe during any exchange established through our service.