Libertyville student's app helps feed the hungry
Solve Hunger began as an idea at the Sharma family dinner table. The Sharmas were discussing potential solutions to improve food drive networks locally.
Tavish Sharma, a Libertyville High School sophomore at the time, initiated the dinnertime conversation. He felt compelled to continue helping hungry people after leading a Libertyville community project that consisted of assembling, collecting, and distributing nonperishable food items and sandwiches at several local food pantries in Lake County.
"My parents provided the perfect mix of support for my vision of creating a software application that connects communities to food sources," said Tavish, now a senior at Libertyville.
Tavish rose to the challenge of developing the Solve Hunger app through taking computer language, design, and iOS development-intensive coursework via several online university courses.
"That was an interesting six to eight months of my sophomore year. I had to learn Swift programming language, SQLite database, and Adobe XD design to code and design the app. The framework seemed impossible at first."
Ultimately, Tavish's hard work led to the development of an iOS application on the Apple App Store and a NPO, Solve Hunger Corp.
"What helped me most was my perseverance. It helped me through the waivers and research. The toughest part for me was designing my app, because it required a lot of creativity and intuition," Tavish said.
"I just kept the vision of that first food drive I ran, which made me realize how our community needs a common platform to connect with food sources and help the long lines of people with food insecurity."
It didn't take long for Tavish's perseverance to pay off, as Solve Hunger began to meaningfully impact food pantries across the region and nation.
"The first 200 users signed up during the Wheels for Meals launch event. The word spread quickly. Soon I was able to build a network in Lincolnshire, Gurnee, and Vernon Hills, including 30 pantries with an one-hour radius from Libertyville," Tavish said.
"After the Naperville/Woodridge tornado, my app connected food pantry volunteers to help the families affected. Solve Hunger volunteers also ran food drives in Dallas and Houston areas during the ice storm. Pantries also reached out from California, Maryland, New York, and many others."
Before long, Tavish began mentoring and training others to promote Solve Hunger.
"I attended speaking conventions. These conventions included The National Academy, where there were 2,500 STEM students. I spoke at three of these conventions and had several people reach out at each one.
"These people are now state liaisons for Solve Hunger," Tavish said. "I did a lot of mentorship with young kids, pantry representatives, and the liaisons to connect through Solve Hunger. I also trained older people not as adept with technology. They've been doing food pantries the old-fashioned way."
Due to Tavish's outreach, Solve Hunger is now represented in 13 states with more than 60 food banks. The attainment of Tavish's vision for global impact soon followed.
"Internationally, food drive platforms are just not there," Tavish said. "I assisted in Capetown, South Africa, after speaking at another convention. I had a fully virtual meeting. Also, I helped a day shelter, called Harmony House, for street children in India. The kids took pictures of the activity. There were thank you notes from the kids."
Solve Hunger will continue to play a significant role in Tavish's future plans. He plans on creating an AI machine-learning algorithm, capable of predicting statistics of food shortages before they happen.
"There are now 5,000 users on my app. I am taking the app with me to college. I plan to major in computer science and engineering to develop concepts for the greater purpose of the common good," Tavish said. "My goal is to give people opportunities to succeed by getting them the resources they need most."
For information, visit www.solvehungercorp.org. On Instagram, follow @solvehunger.