June 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

App that Locates Free Summer Meals Aims to Include Libraries

poster-app_comboFor millions of students across the country, summer is not always fun and games. But the Range app wants to change that. The mobile site would feature a map to show teachers, social workers, and other caregivers who work with children where students can spend their days safely and remain engaged. All that’s needed? Your help.

Caravan Studios, which created Range, has kicked off an Indiegogo campaign to raise $10,000 that’s running until May 31. Funds will underwrite the research and work needed to input the addresses, days, and hours of the 17,000 or so public libraries across the country where students can go during the summer.

“We want safe places where [kids] can hang out and don’t have to buy a cup of coffee to sit there,” says Marnie Webb, CEO of Caravan Studio, a division of TechSoup Global in San Francisco. “Our first and obvious answer is public libraries.”

Launched last April, Range currently provides users with pop-up locations for more than 42,000 free summer meal sites across the United States. A Microsoft Corporate Citizenship grant supplied funds to build and launch the app. Webb notes that of the 21.5 million young people who depend on federally-funded lunch, only one out of six access free meals available to them when school is out. “That’s less than half,” she says.

Public libraries “offer a space anyone can enter, where money isn’t exchanged, and documentation doesn’t have to be shown,” according to Range’s Indiegogo website.

To date, nearly $1,700 has been raised, with donation levels varying from $5 to $1,000. All Indiegogo prizes have been donated, including a Little Free Library at the $500 level (granted by the San Francisco Public Library); a 12-ounce bag of coffee from San Francisco’s Ritual Roasters, at the $75 level; anda personal Tweet at the $5 level.

Last year most of Range’s users were in California, New York, and the Chicago metro area, says Webb, and the app is currently used on about 500 phones. Webb hopes to see it installed on more than 1,500 phones by the end of the summer.

“We’re targeting people who talk to a lot of youth over the course of a day,” says Webb. “And we’ll be doing a lot of outreach.”

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.