(INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., June 18, 2018) The Indy Chamber, TechPoint and Open Indy Brigade – a non-profit advocate for public data and open source technology – presented the 5th annual “Indy Civic Hack” over the weekend. The event enlists teams of volunteers from Indy’s technology community to use public data and their own high-tech ingenuity to help solve civic challenges posed by state and local governments.
This year’s Civic Hack focused on food insecurity, responding to a newly-released report from the Indy Hunger Network: According to this ‘Unmet Need’ study, one in five Marion County residents live with food insecurity, with nearly 50,000 missing multiple meals on a weekly basis. The ‘hackathon’ challenged teams to tackle this issue by developing a data-driven ‘Food Compass’ app to connect hungry Hoosiers with appropriate resources.
“We may not think of hunger as a problem with a high-tech solution,” said Indy Chamber President and CEO Michael Huber. “But the Indy Hunger Network’s survey shows that most local food insecure people aren’t taking advantage of the available resources – they aren’t sure what programs they’re eligible for or where to turn for help…we can put this information at their fingertips with the help of our region’s talented tech community.”
Roughly 60 participants were organized into 20 teams, kicking off the Civic Hack on Friday (June 15th) at the Launch Indy downtown co-working space. The event was kicked off by Mayor Joe Hogsett, whose administration has focused on food security, access and hunger relief through the city’s Office of Public Health and Safety, and received a briefing and challenge overview from Dave Miner of the Hunger Network.
Each year, the #IndyCivicHack brings together technology and government, developing innovative concepts to better Indianapolis. For the next 24 hours, we channel that innovation toward filling gaps in access to food resources that cause too many of our residents to go hungry. pic.twitter.com/cpQzjZqD36
— Mayor Joe Hogsett (@IndyMayorJoe) June 15, 2018
Teams worked through Friday evening and most of the day Saturday, fueled by plenty of coffee, energy drinks and informed by additional Q&A sessions and panel discussions with sponsors and other experts. Submissions were uploaded by 4:00PM Saturday, pitched to judges, and finalists announced that evening.
Congrats to @LevelUpDevelop on winning the Food Compass challenge at #IndyCivicHack! And, thanks to all the very thoughtful and innovative teams who opened our eyes to tech solutions to food insecurity. pic.twitter.com/AFLlKFCUGU
— Indy Food (@indy_food) June 17, 2018
The winner of the Food Compass Challenge was Level Up Development, whose app design included a multi-channel smart chatbot expert on food assistance benefits like SNAP and WIC and other resources (groceries accepting EBT, food pantries, Summer Servings, etc.) that can provide available information based on the user simply asking it a question. This service would also be available via SMS text messages for residents who may not have access to smart phones or data plans.
In addition to the Food Compass challenge, teams could opt to participate in the Innovators Challenge, a ‘freestyle’ challenge encouraging the use of all available datasets from national, state and local sources to develop creative ideas that inform the discussion around food insecurity and reveal data-related insights.
— Jessica Clark (@JessieNClark) June 17, 2018
Jessica Clark was the winner of the Innovators Challenge with her ‘Foodar’ app, which leverages available information and connection points to the Connect2Help 211 system, as well as eligibility calculators for food assistance programs. It also included push notifications that could inform the user when events that don’t occur on defined schedules like mobile food pantries are available in their area.
Civic Hack participants were encouraged to continue their work for civic good through meetups of the Open Indy Brigade, Indy’s Code for America affiliate.