Calgary teenagers develop app to fight food waste

A group of young women in Calgary is developing an app that would make donating food to service agencies more like working for Uber. High school students are working on the Leftovers App, in conjunction with the foundation of the same name.

4 young women working with the Leftovers Foundation are streamlining how donated food gets distributed

16 year olds Traneice Aranda and Donnattella Salvador, 17 year old Veyra Pascual, Leftovers Foundation founder Lourdes Juan and mentor Brad Rougeau are all part of the team developing the Leftovers app. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

A group of young women in Calgary is creating a mobile phone app that would make donating food to service agencies more like working for Uber.

Traneice Aranda and Donnattella Salvador, both 16, Veyra Pascual, 17, and Leanne Bui, 18, are currently developing the Leftovers app, in conjunction with the foundation of the same name.

"Our goal is basically to alleviate food waste," said Aranda.

Connected through tech competition for girls

All four women were attending Bishop McNally High School in Calgary when they entered the Technovation Challenge in 2017. The contest is a global tech entrepreneurship competition for high school girls, and their goal was to pitch something that would help combat food waste. 

A demonstration, incomplete version of the Leftovers app. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Through the competition they met Lourdes Juan, founder of the Leftovers Foundation in Calgary. Volunteers with her organization pick up excess food from vendors and restaurants in both Calgary and Edmonton, and distribute it to service agencies rather than seeing it go to landfill.

"We had a similar idea, and it just aligned. It was perfect timing," said Salvador about meeting Juan.

The Leftovers founder had been looking for a way to scale up the foundation's work. They currently need humans to manually connect volunteers with vendors at different times of day.

"Right now to volunteer for Leftovers, you have to go to our website, and it redirects you to another website," said Juan.

Current model takes "a lot of people power"

The app would allow for vendors to enter food they have to offer in the app. It would then notify available volunteers to pick up the food and take it to an agency in need, much like how ride-hailing apps such as Uber notify available drivers when someone is looking for to be picked up.

"We'd like to get that into other cities. But it's taking a lot of people power right now to do that. With the app we can really make things efficient," said Juan.

Teenagers Traneice Aranda, Donnattella Salvador and Veyra Pascual are developing an app for the Leftovers Foundation to help cut down on food waste. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Three of the young ladies working on the app are still in high school; Leanne Bui has started her first year of university while still remaining part of the team.

The teen developers have some mentors helping them increase their technical skills while working on the project. Brad Rougeau started working with the team while completing his masters degree in computer science at the University of Calgary. After graduating, he's continued to work on the project but admits he is impressed with the skill displayed by the young women.

"They're actually getting paid to build an app. When I was in high school, I worked at Wal-Mart," said Rougeau.

The Leftovers Foundation is currently running a crowdfunding campaign, with a goal of raising $20,000 to continue app development.

"We've certainly paid them wages for what they've done so far and we'd like to keep going with that," said Juan.

According to Rougeau, the money will allow them to complete the project.

"We're gonna finalize the app development and do full scale testing," he said.

About the Author

Anis Heydari

Video Journalist

Anis Robert Heydari has worked in jobs ranging from cleaning up oil spills to fixing phone lines, but all those roads eventually led to being a jack-of-all-trades and CBC News reporter. Reach him at anis@cbc.ca.