Current Affairs

Oxford students launch ‘Find My Pasta’ app to track food shortages amidst COVID-19

Yesterday, two Oxford undergraduates Julia Willemyns and Jack Solomon launched the free data-crowdsourcing iOS app “Find My Pasta” for reporting and tracking supermarket food shortages, The Blue reports. This is in response to the nationwide panic buying amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent weeks, a distressing and widespread consequence of the pandemic has been stockpiling. Whether it be that your nearest Tesco has long queues or they are out of bare necessities, the food shopping experience has recently become a nightmare.

Co-founder Julia, Merton College, explains:

“We came up with the idea when we were going to various shops to find pasta but couldn’t find any because of the panic buying happening in Oxford. It dawned on us that we may have the privilege to hunt down products like pasta but for people who were at risk this isn’t a possibility.

“If you’re vulnerable to the disease you cannot afford to go to three or four shops to try to find a product. Find My Pasta collects crowdsourced information on supermarket stock to help at risk individuals reduce their contact with others.”

The app is designed for people to take charge of their own communities. It relies heavily on crowdsourcing data from local shoppers and inputting it into the app.

When a user goes into the shops, they are able to report what is missing on the shelves. This then informs all other shoppers in the area what items are available and allows them to more efficiently shop as well as limit the spread of the virus. By going to fewer shops and staying home more, people limit the contact they have with people, which in turn reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Especially in the case of at-risk individuals which might include people with compromised immune systems or the elderly, this app could have extraordinary impact. Julia elaborates:

“If you are at a low-risk of complications or infection then it may not seem like too much of a burden to check in on multiple supermarkets daily for essentials; but for many at-risk individuals this isn’t possible.

“If this app means people visit two supermarkets instead of three that is a win in our view because they would have come into contact with a fewer number of people. In this difficult time, even the smallest action may have extraordinary effects. We just hope our effect is a positive one.”

Despite the app just being released, Jack and Julia have already reported that it is starting to help communities around the world. With downloads from Portugal to Poland to the United States, the beauty of “Find My Pasta” is that any place around the world can easily start using this app to report on stocks in their local area.

Once the pandemic is under control, their plan is to look into other markets where the technology could be replicated. For example, conflict areas or remote regions which often have supply and food shortages. They hope to create an even greater positive impact worldwide.

Right now however, they hope to simultaneously build a sense of social responsibility and help people get through food shortages — one community at a time.

Find My Pasta currently works on iOS but the creators would like to release an android version soon. It can be downloaded here.

‘Find My Pasta’ in the iOS App Store
Map view where users can find supermarkets in their local area
Buy screen where users can see what has been reported as available versus out-of-stock
Report screen where users can self-report the availability of necessity food items

Anvee Bhutani

Anvee Bhutani is Senior Media Editor of The Oxford Blue and was formerly both News Editor and Events Director. She is a penultimate year student at Magdalen College reading Human Sciences and is originally from San Francisco, California.