If a group of teenagers have their way, fresh and affordable food would be delivered to the doorsteps of low income Canadians with the click of a mouse.
Thirty-four high school students from across the country worked together this past summer to design a charitable eCommerce platform called Farms2Forks.
The project aims to connect local farmers with people in need in order to provide subsidized prices for fruits and vegetables.
If they want to eat healthy, Farms2Forks is an amazing way to do so. - Anushka Birla, grade 12 co-creator
"I see people on the streets near my school and they're not homeless, they're just hungry," said 17-year-old Anushka Birla.
The grade 12 student from Kitchener's Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute was one of 500 high school students selected to participate in an education and innovation program run by the Waterloo-based charity SHAD.
Vacation spent tackling food insecurity
The students were put into teams, sent to live at various university campuses for the month of July, and challenged to design a solution to a major social or economic problem.
This year's homework was food insecurity, a growing concern, said SHAD president Tim Jackson.
"The winning group [Farms2Forks] took a practical approach to ensure that Canadians, who may not have the same means as others, are able to access a stable food supply."
Jackson says the eCommerce platform, which is still a prototype, matches up farmers in various regions across the country to people in the same area looking to buy.
The students hope donors to the project would receive a charitable tax receipt for helping to keep prices low.
The student team says they contacted dozens of farmers, as well as the Dairy Farmers of Ontario to pitch the viability of their project.
"I called a bunch of farmers in Elmira and they told me they sometimes have trouble connecting with customers who don't drive to the country," Birla said.
The students got positive feedback when they suggested an online ordering service could help increase sales for farmers.
Their research also shows Canadians are receptive to the idea of donating to a charity helping farmers offer discount food to lower-income families.
"We really want this to happen so we're looking into getting investors," Birla said.
Maple Leaf Foods, one of the industry partners that evaluated the student projects, was impressed by Farms2Forks.
"It is inspiring to see young leaders think so creatively to develop practical approaches to advance sustainable food security," said Maple Leaf's Senior Vice President of Sustainability and Public Affairs Lynda Kuhn in a statement.