Teen Prodigies Create App That Could End School Lunch Hunger

Teen Prodigies Create App That Could End School Lunch Hunger

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Alyssa Kapasi had never thought about how school children living next door to her might be going hungry every day – and that is why she is helping to create an app that will ensure every child in America can have access to a full meal.

Instead of parents buying going through an arduous online process to pay for their children’s school lunch meals, the Food For Thought app developed by the 17-year-old high school student lets parents buy meals for their kids, as well as meals for another anonymous hungry student.

Kapasi believes that the app’s simple pay-it-forward model will make parents and individuals more likely to donate a couple bucks towards other hungry kids in their community.

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“Currently, the most common way for parents to pay for their child’s lunch is to use an online platform in which they load money to their child’s multipurpose school ID or a lunch debit card,” Kapasi told Good News Network. “The child can then use the card like a debit card in their cafeteria.”

“Basing our concept off of the current systems, on my platform, which will not have a membership fee, parents can add money for their child to use and when they are confirming their payment they will be asked if they would like to anonymously pay for a $2-3 meal for another child in their community,” she added.

In order to ensure that families don’t abuse the payment system, there will be certain applications and requirements in place for applying as a Food For Thought recipient. Both donors and recipient families, however, will always be kept anonymous.

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Additionally, you don’t have to be a parent to make a donation – anyone can download the app for charitable use.

Kapasi first got the idea for the app when she was volunteering for a nonprofit that paired tutors with children who could not afford them. Originally, she says that she was bewildered as to why the volunteers kept bringing in food for the kids.

“At the first meeting, I noticed that the organization was providing sandwiches for all of the children,” says Kapasi. “I was initially confused because I assumed that these kids had just eaten lunch and in an hour or two were going to be getting dinner.”

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The volunteers went on to explain that many of the children didn’t have families who could afford school lunches – and furthermore, could not afford to feed them at home, either.

“When you think of hungry children, you automatically think of people in third world countries. The concept that there are children in my community that are not getting enough to eat horrified me and lead to me researching childhood hunger in the United States.”

Kapasi, who is a senior at Brearley School in New York City, then joined forces with four other classmates – Emma Yang, Fiona Xu, Ivy Mao, and Gabrielle Rich – to form Team Fig: a group dedicated to solving hunger in their communities.

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Yang was actually featured on Good News Network last year for creating the first app ever targeted specifically towards seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. The 12-year-old originally designed her Timeless app as a means of helping her grandmother keep track of dates, people, obligations, and memories – and it turned out to be wildly successful.

Now, however, Team Fig is focused on developing the Food For Thought app for the 2018-2019 school year. The girls have already secured funding for the prototype via their GoFundMe campaign and a $2,000 grant from the Allstate Foundation Good Starts
Young Rally. In addition to applying for nonprofit status, they hope to begin beta testing within the next few months.

“While governments, laws, and budgets may change, we believe that community ties are long-lasting,” Kapasi told Good News Network. “Food for Thought reflects this in that it will make it easy and accessible for people to donate to help limit and possibly stop school lunch inequality and its byproduct food shaming.”

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(Photo by Team Fig)

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