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Campus, News

CSULB students develop mobile app to combat food insecurity

By Hannah Getahun and Alejandro Vazquez


The idea for the PeriDeals app began when Josh Haber discovered two glaring statistics. 

According to the USDA, 30-40% of food is wasted in the United States. According to a California State University study of student’s basic needs, “41.6% of CSU students reported food insecurity.”

PeriDeals, an app that notifies students of grocery deals on meat and dairy within three miles of Long Beach State, was created to alleviate the gap between food insecurity and food waste.

“It just kind of fits together you know,” said Haber, a sixth-year community health major. “Let’s connect students with these deals. The more we dug into it, the more we learned, the more it seemed like a good idea.” 

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PeriDeals

Ryan Guitare

Haber collaborated with app developers, the Basic Needs program, the Beach Pantry and old friends like Armando Gutierrez, an exercise kinesiology major at Harbor College who knew Haber in high school. Gutierrez joined the project after expressing an interest in the issue of student hunger in the Los Angeles Community College District.

Now Haber, Gutierrez and the other three members of the team go out to grocery stores to find deals, run the social media accounts and pass out flyers to students. 

In order to fund the project, the team invests their own money and the few monetary awards from pitch competitions and grants.

It’s a tedious task, but they hope that software integration, in-store inventories and cooperation from the major corporations will help them keep track of the most up-to-date food deals for students. 

“The biggest challenge at the same time [is] getting these big grocery corporations to give us the time of day,” Haber said. “We’re still proving ourselves to the stores.”

As students try to balance transportation costs, housing and school fees, food budgets are usually the first to go. Students are more at risk than most people to experience food insecurity. Gutierrez and Haber both said they were fortunate enough to never really go hungry. 

“I have a lot of friends struggle with it,” Haber said. “You see it, but you don’t really experience it.” 

Haber said the closest he had ever been to experiencing food insecurity was when he weight lifted his sophomore year and didn’t have time to work. His $200 a month fixed budget made him appreciate the grocery store deals.

“That was a really tough time for me,” Haber said. “That was the only time where I wouldn’t even call it food insecurity but I struggled with the budgeting…I was thinking ‘I wish I knew what deals they had right now.’ If they didn’t have a good deal, I could just go to Ralphs or Vons, but I don’t have time to go to all of them.”

Now, the Basic Needs program offers PeriDeals as a resource for students who come to their offices in search of food options.

“It takes a village to help our students, and [it requires] as many resources as we can provide,” said Kenneth Kelly, director of Basic Needs.

Kelly said that technology like PeriDeals helps to expedite the long, bureaucratic processes students would have to go through to access resources such as housing and food. 

Although PeriDeals is in its beginning stages and cannot fully solve the student food insecurity crisis, the team hopes to work on the project well past graduation in order to make the app robust, and their vision a reality. 

“A big part of what we’re trying to do is keep that discussion going,” Haber said. “Keep the statistic out there. Make sure people know that this is an important issue.” 

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