Jack Griffin 2017-2019 Live Más Scholarship Recipient, Founder/CEO of FoodFinder
More than 30 million children in the United States rely on the free lunch received at school every day. Amidst the current pandemic, thousands of schools across the country have closed and many will not re-open for the remainder of the school year. For many students who depend on meals at school, their families must now locate services quickly to get food on the table. That’s where FoodFinder comes in.
FoodFinder is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make it as easy as it should be for hungry families to find free food assistance nearby. Created by 3-time Live Más Scholarship recipient, Jack Griffin, FoodFinder’s mobile app and website show food-insecure children and their families when and where to get help from their closest food pantries, based only on their current location or zip code.
Jack launched FoodFinder in 2014, and since then the site has served more than 250,000 people by streamlining and simplifying the ordinarily stressful search for food. Last year, Jack graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in business as well as a minor in community action & social change that guides him now in his work as the full-time CEO of FoodFinder.
“When I first began FoodFinder, I was shocked to discover there was no centralized source of information on free food relief. Currently, our database provides information about more than 50,000 food pantries across all 50 states, and FoodFinder is the largest single source of food relief information online or offline. Our goal for 2020 is to be the first-ever national database for every food pantry in America.”
Since the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, site traffic for FoodFinder has quadrupled. “We used to have 700 people per day using the platform, now the number is up to 3,000 people daily. While food insecurity has always been a massive issue, the demand for this information has skyrocketed. As the crisis unfolds before our eyes, we must answer the call not only for people who were already in tough circumstances and in need of free and reduced lunch, but also for those who are now newly unemployed and struggling to cover rent, medical bills, and of course, find food.”
With this increased need, FoodFinder has two main steps in its action plan to serve those who need it most.
“The first part of the plan is increasing awareness. We are doing everything we can to proactively identify communities that need us. The focus is specifically centered around school populations as tens of millions of kids and their parents have been affected already by school closure. The second step is to strengthen national and regional partnerships with school systems and federal and state governments to coordinate our efforts with the supply side of feeding Americans. We are committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information on FoodFinder since food pantry operations are being heavily altered by reducing hours or switching to a drive-thru model.”
Jack shares three main ways people can support FoodFinder’s efforts.
- DONATE. Financial support is crucial as the cost increases on the platform to serve more users. A $25 donation helps FoodFinder connect 150 food-insecure families to food assistance.
- SPREAD THE WORD. It is terrific to see the mobilization of people on social media sharing this with their networks and connecting those who need it to this resource.
- UPDATE FOODFINDER’S DATABASE. If you know of a community center, faith-based institution or educational institution providing free food, let FoodFinder know. The website has functionality for users to make updates and changes to food pantry listings. Updating any change in hours or change in operation for your local pantry makes a BIG difference.
While times are challenging, Jack maintains a hopeful outlook. “It’s encouraging to see regular folks, individuals, business entities and communities of all sizes rising to meet the need and going above and beyond to make sure those who are vulnerable are not left out in the cold. The fight doesn’t end when the pandemic does. We need to make sure people are safe and continue to stay safe. Even though we wish circumstances never got this dire, a silver lining of this situation are the policy changes that are likely to take place.
The curtain has been pulled back on how many millions of families were already so close to the financial brink. Now is a pivotal time for change: I encourage people not to let the urgency of this moment fade away when the virus itself does. Our job is by no means over. FoodFinder will continue to serve families in every corner of the country.”