|Ms. Skwarchuk and Governor Bullock|
But when you marry this attribute with intelligence, life becomes interesting and people get uncomfortable. I recently spoke with Flathead High School student, Sophia Skwarchuk, about a social media app she created to address the glaring lack of awareness regarding hunger imbalance in Montana. I expected her to be bright and industrious, but just a few minutes into the conversation I realized she had a level of empathy that truly makes her culpable in changing the world.
Hers is not a helpless compassion, either. It doesn’t fall victim to circumstances and implode with frustration or despair at what is unfolding around her. Instead, it confronts a heartbreaking need with calculated pragmatism; it is the strongest type of empathy because it is proactive.
It is terribly frustrating to notice a societal need that seems to be hiding in plain sight. Nearly 1 in 7 Montanans struggle with hunger, and approximately 48,000 children live in food insecure homes. These are not statistics from Port-Au-Prince or Mogadishu or Bogotá. These are mothers in Helena, grandparents from Havre, and children in Lakeside. People in Montana are going to bed and waking up hungry and either no one knows or no one cares.
While attending the Governors and First Lady’s Council for Childhood Hunger, Sophia assessed this problem and began taking tangible steps to create a remedy for an epidemic plaguing our state. There are resources in Montana for people experiencing hunger, but access to them was problematic because they are so decentralized.
So, what if there was a way for someone to find out what was available in close proximity? One of the most wonderful qualities of the Millennial Generation is their ability to shrink an enormous world into the size of a computer app. Sophia knew it was time to enter the fray and utilize social media to present a lifeline to people who are in danger of drowning in plain sight.
Her app, Montana Eats, was born with the three-fold purpose to provide lists of food banks and pantries around Montana, help locate summer feeding programs, and provide hotlines people can use to for emergency assistance. But getting from point A to point B required more than having an idea. Lots of people have ideas. Lots of people wax eloquent about saving the planet. Lots of people get bored and eventually move on when they realize their benevolence requires a bit of elbow grease.
But how many people read a book and research the internet so they can learn how to write a computer code without having any experience in this area? How many people decide this isn’t enough and discovers there needs to be an intentionality to the program because the majority of low income people in Montana have Android and not iPhones?
I know one.
Montana Eats is an indispensable tool in linking people in need with the proper resources they require to remain healthy. Everything can be found on one data base that helps people find relief and assistance.
It is people like Sophia Skwarchuk that are conduits for hope because she understands despair is created by systemic issues that can’t be wished away. If people are hungry, they need food and if they don’t know where to find food then all the best intentions in the world accomplish nothing. Montana Eats is an amazing resource that is helping save lives because one young lady decided to do something about hunger.
Ingenuity surely is a nice thing.