In January of 2013, the White House announced that June 1st would be the National Day of Civic Hacking (NDoCH), a call for developers, designers, data experts, and other skilled technologists to come together and donate their time and skills for the civic good. As a large amount of government data has become publicly available over the last few years, emphasis was placed on using technology to visualize and manipulate public data to make it more easily accessible and usable. Austin’s St. Edward’s University took up the charge, inviting the entire tech community to join them in a 48-hour hackathon.
Keep Austin Fed (KAF) became involved in the event when Randy Rosens, the organization’s founder, connected with Claire Dunn, IT Communications Coordinator at St. Edward’s University, after she attended a screening of a student film highlighting Keep Austin Fed. Claire encouraged Randy to come to the event and see how a weekend with technologists might accelerate and amplify the work of his organization. After Randy’s project pitch, George Luc, CEO of GivePulse, and his co-founder James McGirr, a community volunteer and technologist, were drawn to the cause and worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to build Keep Austin Fed the tools they needed.
The system they created allows KAF to easily organize food donors such as restaurants and bakeries, recipients such as refugee shelters, and volunteers to better streamline the process of getting excess food to those who need it. The website is built in a WordPress framework and utilizes Sugar CRM to manage the database entries created for every donor, recipient, and meal delivery, and GivePulse to register and organize volunteers. When donors have food to give they text their ID number and what they have to give directly to the system, which then identifies available volunteers and texts them to request a pickup. When a volunteer responds that they are available to complete the pickup and delivery, the system sends a “request cancellation” text to the other volunteers and texts the donor to let them know who will be coming to get the food. The volunteer can then choose to give the food whichever recipient is most convenient for them.
In conjunction with The St. Edward’s Office of Information Technology, Keep Austin Fed submitted a video about their project and mission to the White House. The project was selected to be one of seven honored at the Champions of Change event in Washington D.C. on July 23, 2013.
“One of Austin’s most powerful resources is our community of passionate technologists,” said David Waldron, Vice President for Information Technology at St. Edward’s University and co-organizer of the hackathon. “Given the opportunity to put their skills to work on tough local issues and engage with local volunteers and citizen organizations, I believe our wired locals can truly make a difference,”