press release

Feeding Neighbors In Need: Chicago Hackathon To End Hunger

CHICAGO – The second annual Hackathon to End Hunger brought together members of Chicago’s technology sector with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to develop data driven solutions to tackle the issue of hunger. The 12 hour event was hosted at Strata Decision Technology.

The hackathon included over 100 developers and analysts from many of Chicago’s top technology companies as well as students from the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Loyola University and University of Illinois at Chicago.  The hackathon was sponsored by many of Chicago’s most innovative technology companies including Strata Decision Technology, Solstice, Civis Analytics, Signal Co., Jellyvision, Livongo, and Uptake.

“Hunger in Cook County doesn’t have to be a reality,” said Kate Maehr, executive director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. “Sadly, one in six of our neighbors turns to the Food Depository’s network where we feed over 800,000 people in the Chicagoland area every year.  From getting real-time food insecurity rates down to the neighborhood level to tracking the impact of food access over time, Chicago’s technology community is full of really smart people who want to and can help build scalable solutions to solve these problems and really make a difference.”

Hackathon participants worked in teams to examine hunger through a technology lens and develop ideas and applications that overcome barriers to timely and relevant data collection. Nine teams worked for 12 hours building technology solutions to address data collection and capture issues as it relates to existing Food Depository programs, namely mobile distributions.  A panel of expert judges determined a winner based on innovation, accessibility and scalability. The winning team ultimately created a SMS-based chatbot solution to gather real-time food insecurity data at the hyper-local level. The data will enable the Food Depository to better predict increases or decreases to food insecurity at the neighborhood level. Members of the winning team, team SMS-S, included: Kris Wanintradul and Paul Anderson from Strata Decision Technology, Matt Ehinger and Jon Fox from Solstice, Bryan Berend from Civis Analytics, Hannah Worrall and Kathleen Hui from the University of Chicago, Nicholas Dennis from OTTO Engineering and Thomas Lesniak from Trustwave Holdings.

“This Hackathon demonstrates the potential for Chicago’s tech community to tackle social issues and rally around a common cause – cracking the code on hunger,” said Dan Michelson, CEO of Strata Decision Technology and Chair of the Hack Hunger Committee. “The Food Depository is perhaps Chicago’s best example of scaling a mission, serving over 164,000 meals every day to our neighbors.  The Hackathon is a great opportunity to leverage technology to help take that critical mission to the next level.  Working together we can find innovative ways help address issues that can make a real and meaningful difference for those most in need in Chicago”.

The Hack Hunger steering committee is chaired by Dan Michelson of Strata Decision Technology and the Hackathon was led by Ryan Erwin of Orbit Media Studios. Committee members include Bob Armour of Jellyvision, Chris Happ of Goby, Kris Kazibut of Bambu by Sprout Social, Marc Neri of Silicon Valley Bank, Nick Cromydas of New Coast Ventures and Tony Bailey of Digitas LBi.

About the Greater Chicago Food Depository

The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s food bank, is a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community. The Food Depository, founded in 1979, makes a daily impact across Cook County with a network of 700 pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, mobile programs, children’s programs, older adult programs and innovative responses that address the root causes of hunger. Last year, the Food Depository distributed nearly 72 million pounds of shelf-stable food, fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of 164,000 meals every day. For more information, visit or call 773-247-FOOD.