Pictured, top row: Ryan Knightly (CS '23), Anthony Yan (ECE '24), David Lin (CS '25), and Shourya Munjal (CS '23); bottom row: Emily Huang (CS, Econ '24), Gabrielle Franklin (CS '24), and Manaal Khan (CS '23). Not pictured: Katherine Chui (CS '24), Ryan Draper (CS '23) and Chase Hartsell (CS '24).
Each year the Houston Food Bank, the largest such agency in the United States, supplies enough food to serve some 207 million meals to people who might otherwise go hungry.
It works with 1,800 partners—soup kitchens, food pantries, churches, homeless shelters—to feed families in 18 counties in southeast Texas.
Their website also supplies recipes and serves as a handy online cookbook.
“The Food Bank wanted our help with the recipes. They wanted to make it easier for people to read them on their phones and desktops. It was an interesting project that we knew could make a difference,” said Ryan Knightly, a junior in computer science (CS) at Rice and a tech lead with the team developing a recipe app for the Food Bank.
Knightly and his teammates learned of the project through Rice Apps, the student group that provides technology solutions on campus and for non-profits while giving more than 50 students hands-on experience creating web applications.
“We worked with the Nutrition and Health Department at the Food Bank to revamp the way they display recipes on their website. They have recipes but they are out of date and difficult to follow. We wanted to give them a cleaner, more organized look,” said Manaal Khan, a junior in CS and the team’s product manager. The other tech lead is a CS sophomore, Anthony Yan.
The recipes are intended to be simple, inexpensive and nutritional, and to utilize the ingredients provided by the Food Bank. Recipes are included in the boxes of food they distribute.
Users will now be able to search by recipe name or ingredient, filter recipes by dietary restrictions or preferences, adjust serving sizes, translate to other languages (Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Arabic) and print recipes in an easy-to-read format.
Khan expects the project, which started last fall, to be completed and fully operational by the end of the semester. Knightly estimates that team members, working with five underclassmen (“who wrote most of the code,” he adds), and a UI/UX designer, each spent roughly 80 hours total meeting with Food Bank representatives, redesigning the site and developing software.
“We all learned a lot, I think,” Knightly said. “I’ve been involved in other design projects and this one taught me how to delegate the work, how to give team members more freedom but still teach and guide them. It’s about when to be hands-on and when to be hands-off.”