FGCU professor’s interactive map aims to end Southwest Florida food insecurity

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Meals of Hope interactive map (WINK News)

Many families in Southwest Florida have no idea what they will be eating and where they may get dinner from tonight. But a Florida Gulf Coast University professor has a solution.

Packing for a purpose: 150 students and 90,000 meals. All to be delivered 13 local food pantries in Collier County. New technology puts finding these food pantries right at your fingerprints.

Stephen Popper, CEO and president of Meals of Hope, told WINK News that hunger is a silent epidemic – people do not realize how prevalent it is throughout Southwest Florida.

Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, said 10% of families in Collier County do not know where their next meal is coming from.

That is why Meals of Hope and FGCU Professor Thomas Felke launched a new computer application. The interactive map tells users where the closest and open food pantries are in real-time. Either to the person’s current location or an address he or she put into the app.

“A lot of people don’t know what exists in their community,” Felke said.

The map can be found on the Meals of Hope website, either online or on a mobile web browser. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page to use the application.

The goal is to drive out food insecurity. Right now, the app collects data that helps people strategize the placement of new food pantries. The goal is to expand the map beyond Collier County.

Felke wants to expand the app because food insecurity is a multifaceted problem in Southwest Florida. “A lot of people don’t look at it because of the wealth and because of what we see out in our communities,” Felke said. “So, food insecurity really can be a hidden issue.”

Felke said the problem strikes not only those below the poverty line but working families, too. It is something Popper agrees with. “If we can get people to come to the food pantries and come on a regular basis,” Popper said, “they’re able to access nutritious food easily.”

We previously reported the interactive map as being an “app” which was not fully correct. As of now, there is no application available for download on mobile devices, and only works as a browser application.

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