What is Team Fig?

Team Fig is a group of high school students who want to make a difference in the world. We've come together to form an organization which aims to promote better community ties through technology.

Our current project is Food For Thought, a school lunch payment platform that allows students' parents to pay it forward for their peers in need.

How did it start?

I got the idea for Food For Thought after I volunteered with a non-profit organization that connects tutors with intelligent children whose families cannot afford tutors. At the first meeting, I noticed that the organization was providing sandwiches for all of the children. I was initially confused because I assumed that these kids had just eaten lunch and in an hour or two were going to be getting dinner. I asked a staff member why they were providing meals and she responded that the organization did not know if these kids were getting school lunch and that they did not know if they were getting a full dinner at home, so they decided to provide the kids with food. When you think of hungry children, you automatically think of people in Third World countries. The concept that there are children in my community that are not getting enough to eat horrified me and led to me researching childhood hunger in the United States further.  I personally saw how after the kids ate the food provided by the organization and the extra baked goods that I brought in, they were better able to focus, learn, and were overall happier. This experience coupled with the support of the Allstate Foundation and the Peace First Organization in the Peace First Challenge is what led to Team Fig and myself deciding to build Food For Thought.

Alyssa Kapasi, founder

Who DO we partner  with?

We are currently being advised by the Allstate Foundation, the Peace First Organization, and SHAPE America, who are helping us with development and the establishment of our platform.

What are our goals?

The goal of Team Fig is to empower and make it easy and accessible for communities to aid others within itself. While governments, laws, and budgets may change, we believe that community ties are long lasting. Food for Thought reflects this in that it will make it easy for people to donate to help limit and possibly stop school lunch inequality and its byproduct: food shaming. With such a widespread and obstinate problem, we want to allow everybody to help and use the kindness of a community to alleviate the problem.

What is Food for Thought?

Currently, the most common way for parents to pay for their child’s lunch is to use an online platform in which they load money to their child's multipurpose school ID or a lunch card, which the child can then use the card like a debit card in their cafeteria. Food for Thought will not require a membership fee and will allow parents to add money for their child to use and as they are confirming their payment, they will be asked if they would like to anonymously pay for a 2-3 dollar meal for another child in their community. The name of the person who donated the money and the name of the recipient are both kept anonymous. If a parent would like, they may donate more than 1 meal.

Our platform will be released in two phases. The first phase is an online crowdsourcing platform that will allow anyone from the public to donate money to a collective fund that will be distributed to all parents registered with Food For Thought. Phase 2 will take this to the next level and allow parents to pay for their school lunch and contribute at the same time to create a genuine Pay It Forward system.

How will we ensure that the system is secure and not abused?

In order to maximize the impact of the Food For Thought platform, there are safeguards to prevent abuse of our system and to allow donating to be easier. For families to be eligible to receive donated money, they must first submit a yes/no request to their school administration or district that asks whether or not a family is qualified to receive subsidies for lunch. If the family does not qualify to receive assistance but still desires donations, then a prompt may be asked to administrators that asks whether they would recommend the family for the program based on a past history of inability to pay or other situation . To ensure maximum contributions, there is an option for non-parents to create a temporary account and anonymously contribute a donation to pay for a child’s meal in their community. We hope to file Team Fig as a non-profit organization in the near future so that all donations may be tax-deductible to incentivize donations.

What are we doing for outreach?

We are contacting school officials, students, and school staff across America to expand our team and spread our message. We are also advertising through social media and we are currently looking for new recruits for the team and possible collaborators who are working on this issue as well.

Where can we be found?

We can be found on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We are also featured in various articles in the NYTimes, CBS New York, DNAinfo, PatchNYC, AsAmNews and The Renewal Project; a simple Google search of “Food for Thought” will reveal articles written about us.