Students win Microsoft project, benefiting the Hays County Food Bank


Julie Gonzales

The student-led F.E.E.D. team hosted a Microsoft-sponsored presentation of their award-winning project April 26 in McCoy College for the Hays County Food Bank The project won a $6,000 award in competition against four other selected colleges.

Last NovemberNet Impact, a nonprofit organization that promotes using business skills for social and environmental causes, selected 10 finalists to compete in a pitch in front of a Microsoft judging panel. Texas State’s team, F.E.E.D., received $1,000 in prize money and $5,000 seed money to create and perfect this project.

F.E.E.D., which stands for Food, Efficiency, Effectively and Distribution, created an app to help with food rescue, daily distribution and data entry for the Hays County Food Bank. It also assists in reducing admin burden, simplifying tasks and reducing log time of products.

The eight-person team consists of students majoring in computer science, communication design and business.Six of the eight students previously participated in Hackathon, where they were challenged to solve real-world problems in just two days.

F.E.E.D. started working with the food bank during Hackathon last year, leading to the creation of the team. The process began with F.E.E.D. in small groups that would meet with workers in staff data entry, client intake league and total distributions.

In attendance to the presentation were Microsoft judges, employees from San Antonio Data Center, advisers, professors, the Hays County Food Bank and students.

Janet Hale, finance and economics senior lecturer and the McCoy College Bobcat Net Impact adviser, discussed the concept to empower people and investing in the community as a fundamental of Microsoft and this project.

“We are thankful to be chosen as one of the four campuses in the U.S to be selected to participate in a community pitch off'” Hale said.

San Marcos’ Hays County Food Bank has been a significant source for residents dealing with food insecurity and its surrounding areas since 1984. At no cost, clients can receive food up to twice a week.

Food insecurity is how hunger is measured based on a household’s ability to provide food for everyone in the household. In Hays County, one in seven residents are food insecure and one in four children deal with hunger in Texas, according to the national survey by Feeding America.

Cedrik Chavez, digital media innovation junior, alongside his team, focused on how to help food insecurity in an impactful and meaningful way.

“We wanted to create a system that helps fight food insecurity locally,” Chavez said.

When working on the project, F.E.E.D. focused on three main sections: warehouse staff and volunteers, transportation, and storage. The team considered working without capital during the beginning stages because they did not want to incur any costs on the food bank.

The digitally cost-effective time scalable solution enters temperature and weight for volunteers and staff, saving 2-3 hours of data entry. The team had a $5,000 budget and finished with $2,000 remaining.

F.E.E.D.’s biggest challenges were time scheduling and communication. Several members had jobs, so each member had to coordinate schedules to work best as a team. The group also had to garner a thorough understanding of the food banks process before they could come up with the development.

After user testing and some final adjustments, F.E.E.D. will be officially offered for the Hays County Food Bank to use.

Jessica Cruz, volunteer services coordinator at the Hays County Food Bank, said the bank is very excited to have F.E.E.D. because it provides an opportunity to work with volunteers in real-time. Volunteers will communicate with food bank staff through the app on tablets while distributing food.

“The app is super user friendly and will be easy for volunteers to use,” Cruz said.

Project F.E.E.D. will affect 29,000 food insecure residents that receive assistance from the Hays County Bank. In the future, they hope to venture to new ideas and possibly add a second phase to the project.

The Hays County Food Bank is located at 220 Herndon St. in San Marcos. More information on the Hays County Food Bank can be found on its website.

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