December 26, 2018

App Aims To Connect Food Insecure Residents To Resources

Article origination IPBS-RJC
The St. Vincent DePaul food pantry in Indianapolis.  - Jill Sheridan/IPB News

The St. Vincent DePaul food pantry in Indianapolis.

Jill Sheridan/IPB News

Whether it’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eligibility, pantry hours or free lunch at the library, it can be difficult to navigate food assistance programs.  

A new mobile tool aims to connect people in Indianapolis with food. It's called Food Compass and was created as part of a competition to address civic problems through technology.  

City of Indianapolis food policy and program coordinator Shellye Suttles says the design uses a smart chatbot to answer questions.   

"It requires them to do nothing different than they are doing with their current technology," says Suttles. "It just engages them on that level with that conversational chatbot." 

Suttles says the app will be able to work with exisiting message systems. She says the majority of low-income residents have a cell phone or smart phone. 

Suttles says a targeted app on a mobile device can be simpler than a phone call. 

"We know that some residents are looking for more anonymity or they are just looking for very quick information on how to connect to those resources," says Suttles. 

Marion County has the highest food insecurity rate in Indiana at 18 percent, and statewide, more than 900,000 Hoosiers struggle with food insecurity. 

Development on the technology starts next month.  The application could be used as a model for other cities to address food insecurity. 

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