BDO Digital Participates in Greater Chicago Food Depository Hackathon to End Hunger

By Michael McRae| October 06, 2016

This past month, the Greater Chicago Food Depository put a call out for all technologists and engineers in the community to take part in an all-day hackathon. BDO Ditigal responded with a team of software developers who were up for the challenge. The goal of the hackathon was to help the Greater Chicago Food Depository do something they had never done before – partner with some of Chicago’s top technological minds to end hunger in the city once and for all.

As a participating member representing BDO Digital, I was excited to take part in a friendly competition with other hack- enthusiasts in a battle to develop the best software and tech-based solutions needed to end hunger, but more importantly, I was eager to put my skills towards a cause that affects so many people in our community. Hunger in Chicago affects 1 in 6 families (including 1 in 5 children) who don’t know where their next meal will come from.

The efforts of the Greater Chicago Food Depository have already made a significant impact on hunger in Cook County, with 650 pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, mobile programs, children’s programs and older adult programs already in place. The goal of this year’s hackathon was to leverage the tech community in a continued effort to drive innovative responses that address the root cause of hunger.

BDO Digital's Software Solution to End Hunger


As a team of BDO Digital software developers, we put our collective minds together to come up with a solution that would boost awareness and connect kids to existing meal programs. Our concept was to locate schools with similar demographics to other schools that have already found success with an existing breakfast marketing campaign. The Greater Chicago Food Depository could then copy-paste the campaign to similar schools throughout the Chicagoland area. In doing so, the program could reach many more schools with a greater likelihood of success.

We developed a prototype algorithm which uses the power of data to find schools with similar metrics. Our Machine Learning Model could be used to predict similar schools based on neighborhood (crime, income, population, age, etc.) and organization (meals delivered, participation, eligibility, enrollment, etc.), providing the Greater Food Depository more visibility into their data without needing a technology background to draw meaningful insights.

The event itself was both intense and exciting. It reminded me of how quickly technology can bring change to so many different types of problems. It was great to see the Chicago tech community rally together around a cause outside of our daily routine and apply our skills to make a real impact on the lives of so many families in our community.

This hackathon was just one of the many ways The Greater Chicago Food Depository is thinking outside the box when it comes to hunger, and we were honored to have participated in their inaugural hackathon. We look forward to participating in other community outreach programs in the future – and much more hackathons to come!

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