County’s 24-Hour ‘Food Data Jam’ to Focus on Local Challenges

food data code jamA 24-hour “Food Data Jam,” hackathon to generate solutions to local food and farm challenges will takeover Poolesville High School starting May 31.

The event is part of the National Day of Civic Hacking but is the only one of 120 official national events to take on the topic of food and farm challenges, according to Montgomery County Chief Innovation Officer Dan Hoffman.

“The purpose is to focus on something that affects the entire county,” Hoffman said. “We’ve been spending a lot of time thinking for  the last year and a  half to what we can do to create a healthy sustainable agriculture reserve.”

The event will begin at noon on May 31 and continuing overnight and through 2:30 p.m. on June 1.

Participants will work on a team addressing one of the following three challenges related to food and agriculture:

• Food Recovery – the County estimates that 19 percent of our local waste stream is food waste, which includes 28,769 tons from restaurants; 14,014 tons from supermarkets; and 5,301 tons from schools. Challenge participants will build solutions that link supply (those with excess perishable food) to demand (shelters, food pantries, etc.).

• Farming and Agriculture – participants will be given access to a wealth of data from the Montgomery County Agriculture Services division and the USDA. Participants’ ideas will help small and mid-sized farmers meet the growing demand for locally-grown products, and will increase customers’ access to healthful food.

• School Food and Nutrition – using real and sample data from the Montgomery County Public Schools’ Food and Nutrition Services Division, participants will explore what applications can help educate parents and students about healthy eating options and increase access and options to healthy food for students.

Those participating will work with their team to brainstorm and build a solution to one of the three challenges. Solutions can be as elaborate or advanced as the skills of the participants allow – from a functioning prototype to a concept mock-up.

On the second day each team will present their ideas and solutions to a panel of judges. The team with the best solution will receive $1,000 and the second place team will receive $500.

Hoffman said they’re expecting about 50 people to participate in the event, but registration is open with a capacity of 100 so he’s hoping the word will spread and more will show up for the “food data jam.”

“We’ve got a nice mix of people registered for the event,” Hoffman said. “One-third each of tech folks, high school students, and those knowledgeable about food and farming issues.”

Throughout the two days, subject matter experts will give presentations on various topics. Scheduled speakers include John Fendrick from Rock Hill Orchard, who will talk about the realities of running a farm,  Amanda Behrens with Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future will address food access and security, and Dr. Kim Robien with George Washington University, School of Public Health, will talk about nutrition.

County Executive Ike Leggett will present remarks on May 31 at 1 p.m. Welcoming remarks will also be provided by Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr at noon on May 31.

Find more information about the event through the County’s Innovation Program website here.

Valerie Bonk

About Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media (MCM).


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