How it All Began


"You will never know how it is until you try it," is an often repeated statement in my house. It's not that I am a shy person but putting myself out there and explaining the crazy ideas in my head in front of a large crowd is hard for me. Besides, when I applied for the MIT Leadership Training Institute's mentorship program, I really did not think I would be accepted. After all high school students from across the state and perhaps more apply for it. To my surprise, I was accepted and every Sunday, beginning in March 2018, I found myself spending three hours with other high school students and MIT students who became our mentors and reminded us that this program wasn't going to be easy but it sure was going to be an experience of a lifetime.

The first week was an orientation for the parents about what the program was all about. The next few weeks involved us brainstorming about team building activities where our mentors motivated us to voice out our opinions on various issues. Slowly but surely, we started sharing possible ideas for our projects on how we could make a difference in our communities.

I have always felt strongly about how so many people go hungry in the world despite so many technological advancements. And even in a developed country such as the United States. Food pantries are doing awesome work but they are short-staffed and poorly funded. So my initial thought was that I could do a fund raiser or collection drive for a local food pantry. So I decided to read up a bit about food pantries and the best way to go about my plan. As I read, I realized how most food pantries are run through volunteers who have to juggle time and low resources. Food pantries depend on donations to stock their shelves -- but often it is difficult to find the right kind of food in the right quantities. Donations are often random -- there can be too much of certain item while too little of others. It is not that people are not willing to donate the right things... they just do not know what they should give.

Donations are often random -- there can be too much of certain items while too little of others.

So that's when I thought... what if potential donors could get a regular alert about the items that were currently in need. Then when they did their own weekly shopping, they could just add this to their lists. My initial idea of creating an app was quite difficult over just a few weeks and so I worked on a website that would be the first step to collect all the data. Potential donors can sign in to receive alerts and pantries can sign in to add special requests or update their inventories. I hope this enables people to easily donate food without stressing out about what to give and for food pantries to receive exactly what they want and thereby serve the community.

Akshara Shankar