tech for good
University of Houston-led team earns NSF funding to bring AI to food charities
The University of Houston announced this month that it will use funds from the National Science Foundation to develop an artificial intelligence program that aims to help food-insecure Texans and eliminate inefficiencies within the food charity system.
The program is backed by a $750,000 grant from the NSF's Convergence Accelerator, which focuses on challenges related to food , nutrition and agriculture. UH's project was among 16 others in the country that received a total of $11 million from the accelerator, which were announced late last year.
The research team from UH includes Norma Olvera, professor of education and a USDA E. Kika de la Garza Fellow; Elizabeth Anderson-Fletcher, associate professor of supply chain management in the C. T. Bauer College of Business and Hobby School of Public Affairs; and Susie Gronseth, professor of education. From the University of Texas is Junfeng Jiao, associate professor and director of the Urban Information Lab in the School of Architecture.
Alison Reese, executive director of digital fundraising nonprofit Souper Bowl of Caring, is also partnering with the team on the project.
Through the project, the UH-led team will use AI can to address issues relating to the "procurement, distribution, access, and utilization of food resources in underserved communities," according to the project's abstract.
In addition to meeting nutritional needs in the community, the team also is focused on finding better ways to address cultural preferences among food-insecure individuals. It will also look to streamline efforts and improve supply chain issues among food charities.
The program will also look to use food delivery services, like DoorDash, and award food donors with NFTs.
"The commitment of our team is to help our fellow neighbors," Ioannis Kakadiaris, principal investigator and Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Professor of Computer Science at UH's College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, said in a statement. "This is evident in everything we do and permeates all our work."
Currently the team has been funded through Phase 1, which allows them to develop proofs of concept and early-stage prototyping, identify new partners and participate in curriculum from NSF.
Teams that have been awarded funds from the Convergence Accelerator will have an opportunity to submit proposals for up to $5 million in funding for Phase 2.