iFinditChicago Android app connects Chicago residents to vital food, medical and shelter resources faster. http://bit.ly/oeDEpi
How has the face of poverty changed in Chicago? Significantly. According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, 1 in 5 Chicagoans are uncertain where they’ll find their next meal. The same study shows that people using food pantries may be employed, without health insurance and even own the home they live in. We designed ifindit to address people’s need to find along with food pantries, clinics as well as a simple to use, practical tool that helps spread word of mouth sharing of information.
The app is Easy to Use, Comprehensive and Sharable to address rising demand for vital resources and an increased use of smart phones in lower income residents. With one touch, users can connect to over 2500 integrated resources (food, shelter and medical).“Filter By” program allows search by type of resource and special services like WIC, SNAP, Link card (food stamps) and free medical clinics..
Case workers have stated that poverty is multidimensional and that the search for food, medical and shelter resources is a combined 24/7 struggle. That along with data suggesting increasing use of the Android smart phone as THE focal point for lower income residents influenced the creation of this app.
Easy to Use:
The iFindit Android app http://bit.ly/oeDEpi has a simple user interface anyone with a smart phone can navigate. The map and list driven interface allows the user to quickly find services.
- Name of the Store/Provider
- Distance to location
- Specific address - ability to direct map
- Phone Number - ability to direct call
- Open Hours
- Payment Accepted (SNAP, Link, WIC, etc.)
- Type of location (i.e.farmers market that accepts SNAP, homeless shelter, medical clinic for uninsured, WIC office)
Who can benefit from the app:
- Social service, case workers
- Chicago residents
- Family, friends, anyone struggling or who cares about someone in need
A user has the ability to search these providers in the categories of “food”, “shelter” and “medical” either on a map,or by list view.
Share by email or Facebook options makes it easy to help spread info about resources from case worker to client or family member to friend. And puts information power in the hands of everyone.
Along with clinics and shelters, we tried to address the issue of food deserts and included traditional places for food like food pantries but also local grocers and farmers markets that accept SNAP. Several professionals shared feedback that indicated a need for a holistic approach to poverty and that the search for food was intimately linked with the search the affordable housing and medical care. With this in mind, we looked at posted Chicago resources including , WIC, SNAP, medical clinics, homeless shelters and even farmers markets that now address food deserts by accepting SNAP.
We invariably missed some resources in our research but considering this is version 1.0, see it’s only as a start. We are unique in integrating multiple searches via smart phone when access to government program officer or website or navigation of 311 may be unfeasible.
iFindit is unique in integrated disparate sources of info in an easy to use interface. We chose to rollout iFindit as a mobile app vs website with the primary use case of a Chicago parent with children on travelling about the city at a time where access to a caseworker or library with internet access is neither feasible nor practical. There are web based alternatives to iFindit as well as google, but we offer something that is an instant resource that can be navigated easily and integrated several dimensions in the challenge to get by in Chicago.
Longevity: Our Long-term Business Strategy
As with other web based services, iFindit is challenged with addressing the need to update information.. We plan on building out features that will easily connect organizations to a database that will allow this. Future enhancements plans are an eligibility expediter, a mobile/web based program that could expedite the time consuming steps between a person and SNAP or WIC. According to one study by Illinois Hunger Coalition, the State of Illinois reported passed up $108 million in federal funding due to under utilization. Tools could help eligible residents get vital services faster.
Non essential background:
Why a Mobile App?
35% of Americans own a smartphone according to a report done by Pew Internet and American Life Project. As Amy Gahran noted in a CNN Tech article on July 11, 2011, “Feature phones are especially popular in low-income communities and among seniors -- demographics that also tend to be less likely to have the time, equipment, experience...” Residents of low-income communities are not only more likely to have smartphones, they are more likely to use their smartphones as their main internet connection. “Minorities and low-income mobile phone owners are more likely to rely only on cell phone for internet access,” (http://www.slideshare.net/applicationsforgood/mobile-health-apps-for-low...). According to Pew, 87% of this group will use their mobile device as their main internet connection. This trend is becoming more feasible with the popularity of companies like Virgin Mobile, BoostMobile and Cricket, known for their pre-paid and contract-free services, have an average charge of $35-$50 a month compared to more expensive plans with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon that charge anywhere from $120-$350 a month for mobile data and text plans (www.phonestatistics.com).
We've taken a lean approach to launching the app working with community experts to identify needs and sharing versions along the way, capturing feedback, fixing bugs and ultimately working to create a robust app that meets several community needs.
We chose to rollout iFindit as a mobile app vs website with the use case of a Chicago parent with children on the move. Our intention was to provide information in an easy to use format for a person travelling about the city at a time where access to a caseworker or library with internet access is neither feasible nor practical. Another use case was a social worker, case worker, family member friend who wanted to help the individual who may be struggling between food, shelter or medical competing needs.