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Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids’ (BB4CK) school program provides free, nutritious lunches to children in need. But what happens to those kids when school’s out?
Food Finder YYC is a website lovingly crafted for BB4CK by Uppercut, a local tech developer, along with ten other local organizations. The app points users in the direction of free food programs -- such as Boys and Girls Club and the Food Bank -- for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks up to two days out. The pilot launched in July 2017.
The mobile function features a chatbot that, via text message, helps users find the nearest food resources when they input the nearest address, intersection, or school. The chatbot tool was an intuitive project for Uppercut.
“Kids aren’t always the best spellers,” says Chelsea Balsdon, Digital Marketing Director at Uppercut. “So we programmed the chatbot to recognize certain words, like nicknames or varied spellings for school names as much as possible.”
This user-friendly, non-judgemental function was very important to Managing Director Kelly Tweddell. Kelly is a mother of elementary school-aged children, and seeing several of her kids’ classmates on the receiving end of BB4CK moved her to initiate the project.
“It’s really empowering for kids to be resourceful when they’re in a situation like that where they can’t afford nutritious food or don’t have access to it at home,” says Uppercut’s Wes Douglas.
“Technology can be a really helpful tool for non-profits like Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids to innovate and move into the future, and being able to volunteer these resources is really important to us.”
As the pilot continues, Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids will be adding more food providers from its robust community. Uppercut hopes to make the software open source so that other cities can adopt the same model.