Tech Forum’s Idea Challenge helps Food Bank deal with more volunteers than tasks

Technology For8m photo.
Technology Forum photo.

By Eileen Dallabrida

The Food Bank of Delaware has a delicious dilemma: too many volunteers and not enough opportunities for them to serve in ways that fulfill them.

At Network Delaware, community activists want to create a citizen change engine, a virtual tool that will remove barriers between people who want to run for office and the resources they need to make a difference.


The Committee of 100 would harness technology to secure the workforce of tomorrow, channeling Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) resources to underperforming, at-risk students and their families in New Castle County.

Entrepreneurial educators from Wilmington University envision an innovative merger of data and virtual reality (VR) that allows users to experience bike trails, concerts and other settings without ever setting foot there.

Wish lists to reality

The 4th Annual Idea Challenge at the Tech Forum of Delaware was designed to find ways to transform wish lists to reality, teaming advocates, educators and entrepreneurs with experts from the Tech Forum community. The event took place March 15 at 1313 Innovation on Market Street in Wilmington.

“These are all worthy ideas and choosing a winner wasn’t easy,” said Greg Gurev, CEO of MySherpa and a judge.

The Food Bank team pitched the Emergency Food System Capacity Building App, which would connect surplus volunteers with operations that need helping hands, such as church food pantries. Other volunteers would add to the food supply by gleaning farmers’ fields and picking up donated goods.

The app also would predict periods when more food needs to be distributed using data on the number of people who are no longer eligible for assistance or have trouble making ends meet because of extremes in temperature that create higher utility bills.

“We came to them with the problem and the tech experts helped us to focus on ways we can use technology to solve it,” said Kim Turner, executive director at the Food Bank.

Communities advocating for themselves

Network Delaware has its roots in the campaign of Wilmington mayoral candidate Eugene Young, a newcomer who lost the democratic primary by a scant 342 votes.

“There was a groundswell of people who wanted to improve their neighborhoods,” he said.

The group’s digital tool would engage and mobilize resources that propel the political process, such as sustainable fundraising and workplace development.

“We help communities advocate for themselves,” Young said. “We are training people to run for office. We are training people to manage campaigns, to be communicators.”

Scott Shaw, chair of the Gaming Department at Wilmington University, said melding data with VR will allow users to remotely get a visual feel for a location while absorbing information about the site.

“You can experience what this school feels like before you send your kids there,” he said. “You can feel like you are at Firefly but without the crowds.”

The Committee of 100, a business organization that addressing quality-of-life issues, would use programming from Newark-based InsiteHub to create a network of mentors and other tools to give underserved high school students a boost in science and technology.

It’s an issue that impacts not only the students. These skill sets are essential in creating an educated, energized workforce that will benefit businesses and organizations throughout the state.

“Our concern is that there are not enough people trained in math and science,” said Paul Morrill Jr., executive director.

The verdict? A split decision: the attendees, voting by text, selected Food Bank of Delaware; the judges gave a thumbs up to the Network Delaware proposal. That means both teams will receive support from the Tech Forum to get their ideas up and running.

Potter Anderson Corroon was the presenting sponsor at the event. Sponsors were MySherpa and 1313 Innovation, with Open Data Delaware and GIC as partners.

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