high tech gift

Houston food charity scores prestigious Amazon tech grant

The Houston Food Bank scored marks for its innovative use of tech and the cloud. Photo courtesy of Houston Food Bank

One of Houston’s most cherished food charities has been recognized for its tech prowess. Houston Food Bank has been awarded the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Imagine Grant.

The endowment honors “the vision and work of nonprofit organizations as they seek to improve their communities and the world with the help of cloud technology,” per a press release.

Specifically, the food bank was recognized in the Go Further, Faster category for the launching of a cloud-native digital logistics platform to better serve vulnerable populations facing food insecurity (that insecurity was greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the food bank notes.

Each winner in this category receives up to $150,000 in unrestricted funding, up to $100,000 in AWS Promotional Credit, and essential engagement with AWS technical specialists.

The challenges of COVID and the pandemic forced the food bank to get creative — and it responded. The food bank began delivering meals in March 2020 as part of its COVID-19 response through partnerships with volunteers, staff, corporate donors, and organizations such as CrowdSource Rescue, Task Rabbit, and Amazon.

This pilot has been a success: to date, more than 2.3 million meals have been delivered to those in need, the food bank notes in press materials.

Tech-wise, the food bank’s Home Delivery Platform operates using a cloud-native serverless architecture which includes heavy use of AWS services (AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon API Gateway, AWS Amplify, and more), with a mobile web responsive front-end written in React/Typescript.

The client side is split across four responsive web applications, each with a different function: Home Delivery management, pantry management, client orders, and driver deliveries. All of these apps utilize shared components and APIs that communicate with each other based on the different user personas.

Pariveda Solutions serves as the technology partner for the implementation of this platform. The project is a capability expansion on top of an existing manual process to deliver food to clients.

Houston Food Bank applied for the Imagine Grant in order to enhance their process digitally, connect submitted orders to the client’s nearest pantry, and manage delivery operations more effectively, with an emphasis on time management and delivery logistics, the organization notes in a release.

“With the success of our home delivery operations, Houston Food Bank’s goal now is to scale operations to expand home delivery for greater reach and impact,” said HFB president/CEO Brian Greene in a statement. “Additionally, with the proposed improvements, we hope to shift to utilizing volunteers for this important service instead of third-party delivery providers, and to deliver food using the client choice model, where clients may select foods based on personal preference, cultural and dietary needs. We are thankful to AWS and Pariveda Solutions for providing their support and expertise as we continue to find new ways to solve the age-old problem of hunger and work towards our ultimate vision of a world that no longer needs food banks.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

TRISH is seeking space health scientists to support with new initiative. Photo via BCM.edu

A space health-focused organization has announced a new fellowship opportunity for scientists.

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health, or TRISH, housed out of Baylor College of Medicine has announced — along with partners California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology — a new fellowship opportunity for postdoctoral scientists tackling the health challenges of deep space exploration and innovating solutions.

“TRISH is a launch pad for exceptional postdoctoral fellows investigating new ways to protect human health,” says Rachael Dempsey, education officer for TRISH, in a news release. “Space health science leads to innovations that help humans thrive, wherever they explore. Our institute is committed to building a diverse and engaged workforce prepared for humanity’s future in space.”

TRISH’s postdoctoral fellowship program will select fellows who will then participate in TRISH’s Academy of Bioastronautics — a mentorship community for space health professionals. The professionals will receive a two-year salary stipend as they conduct their work.

“America’s future is in space exploration, and it’s time to invest in the scientists that will bring forward ground-breaking advances to enable that exciting future,” says Dr. Dorit Donoviel, TRISH executive director, in the release.

Those interested can submit their proposals together with an identified mentor and institution online up until January 26, 2023. Independent investigators with existing research grant support may request to be listed as possible mentors for this program by contacting Jean De La Croix Ndong at jndong@nasaprs.com, per the news release.

Supported in part by NASA, Houston-based TRISH is focused on supporting scientists committed to creating space health treatments and solution for the future of space travel.

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