Coding Challenge Helps Nonprofits Feed Hungry

Publish Date:

Sunday, October 15, 2017 1:14 pm EDT

News Organization:

Greensboro News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.

It's not your typical idea of volunteering but the results could have a big impact on hungry families.

About 70 students participated Saturday in the fourth annual CodeLinc, which is sponsored by Lincoln Financial Group. Students are given 24 hours to create a social media platform to solve a need for a local nonprofit. The winning team's product is then used by the nonprofit.

Ryan Ondik, who considers himself a problem solver, said the event serves as a way for people to give back, among other things.

"It's a great opportunity for us to recruit prospective employees and it's great for the students to gain the experience," said Ondik, a spokesman for Lincoln Financial.

Students from UNC-Greensboro, N.C. A&T, Wake Forest, and high schoolers from The Early College at Guilford are tasked with using their coding skills to come up with a working product. The product is typically used for one nonprofit organization but this year, three joined for one common cause. Local organizations Out of the Garden Project, A Simple Gesture, and Rock and Wrap it Up, formed the Guilford Food Network. The groups want an application that will find food donors, volunteers who can deliver the food and the people who need it.

Once the speakers finished Saturday, dozens of students scurried to find teammates to work with, stopping by the cheese-steak bar for a quick meal on the second floor of the downtown Greensboro building. It was a short amount of time to find the right fits for the teams of four, and coaches advised their protégés to pick wisely.

Brycon Carpenter participated in last year's CodeLinc as a senior at Appalachian State. The 22-year-old High Point native returned as a coach and Lincoln Financial employee. He didn't win last year's competition but said he gained valuable experience that led to a job.

Other hackathons are aggressively competitive but the CodeLinc is more relaxed, he said.

"A lot of hackathons are focused on a person or team," he said. "Last year at CodeLinc, teams would even help each other out."

Don Milholin is excited to see what the students create.

Milholin, executive director of Out of the Garden Project, said those who need food in Greensboro will benefit most from the winner's product. Besides bragging rights, the team can know they are helping find food for those who need it.

"This for us is more about being able to see who can donate the food and who is getting the food," he said.