FoodFinder - Find Free Food on Campus

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Cassandra Lewis
Ian Shields
Matthew Thomas
John Murray


Every day at least one organization holds an event with free food to attract students. Every day a college student wonders what he or she is going to eat. The separation between these organizations’ excess and poor students often causes leftover food to be tossed in the garbage can. This causes students to purchase more food and containers that amounts to energy and resources being needlessly wasted.

Our goal for this project is to create a bridge between the two users of our program – campus organizations that have a cornucopia of food and students whose pantries are running dry. We plan to inform these students of food availability primarily via email, with optional instant messages or SMS messages. Our proximity to University of Maryland gives us access to over 40,000 hungry potential student users as well as over a hundred campus organizational users. We can select students and event planners from the Computer Science, English and Business departments to participate in our usability tests.

We have two classes of users: One class who wants to donate food that is leftover at the end of their event. The other is the user who is hungry and wants to find convenient food in a timely fashion. The first class of users will post the predicted amount of excess food. This type of user may be an event planner for a campus group or a faculty member who is planning an event on campus for students or other faculty members. Another type of user in this category may also be companies who want to advertise their recruitment events on campus to other students by announcing an abundance of food. The second class of users will consist of students who indicate a desire to be notified of food available near their current or future location. Both of these users will be able to meet each others needs through this service.

Students and organizers will interact with our site in a very simple manner. The first type of user will indicate the time, date, location, and quantity of food and preview their posting before posting it. This user may choose to post their information anonymously or they may choose to create an account which keeps track of previous locations. The first type of user may limit those who can see their posting in order to filter potential attendees. In this manner, we are allowing for the major types of posting users who are expected to use the site. If the food that was previously posted by a user had been picked up or reserved, the user will be able to either remove the posting or to mark it as reserved.

The second type of user will use the site to see current food availability on a map. They will be able to filter and sort by type of food, location of event, or even the time of availability. If the poster left an email address or requires an RSVP it will be indicated on the listing.


Immediate Non-Registered User Search for Food

Jim is hungry, has nothing to eat, and doesn’t want to spend any money. In an attempt to satisfy his hunger without breaking the bank, he visits the FoodBuzz website, looking for free-food events occurring on campus. Jim has no interest in spending extra time to register an account, so when the website loads, he immediately clicks “Browse Food Events”. This loads a new page with a map on the left and a list of events on the right. The map is generated using Google Maps API. As a result, navigation of the map (zooming in and out and moving it around) is a familiar process that Jim experiences whenever he gets directions on Google’s website. The map also displays a marker for each event that is listed on the right. Using a simple data entry form, Jim specifies the type of event he’s looking for and his current location. He filters the results by distance and selects two miles as the maximum and be occurring within two hours. This narrows down the list to 5 options. Jim clicks one of the events listed. The map moves to the event’s location, and brings the user attention to the event marker by drawing a circle around it. Additional information (event details, location, time, and food type) is displayed on the selected event. He mouses over several other events to compare the amount of food available. Jim decides this is the event for him, but unfortunately doesn’t know how to get there. To fix this, he clicks “Get Walking Directions to this Event”. After filling out his current address, Jim is presented with the familiar Google Maps interface and is able to satisfy his hunger.

Unregistered Non-Student Provider Posts Listing

Cathy planned a huge party but at the last minute, many people cancelled. She had been prepared for a lot of people, and her refrigerator was stocked with all sorts of food. Unfortunately however, she lives alone and can’t possibly eat it all by herself. Fortunately, Cathy learned of FoodBuzz where she can post her food on the website and visits it. Cathy has no interest in spending extra time to register an account, so when the website loads, she immediately clicks “Post Free Food Pickup”. This takes her to a new page with several data entry fields, including her location, pick up times, contact info, a description of what extra food she has, and a set of check boxes which indicate her preferences as to RSVP and visibility (i.e. whether the user is registered or not). Under the data fields is a warning that says “Please review your posting before submitting. Once you submit your listing an e-mail will be sent out immediately and you will be unable to modify it.” At the bottom of the page, there are three buttons: “Preview Listing”, “Reset Fields”, and “Submit Listing.” Cathy clicks on the “Preview Listing” button and is taken to a map showing her listing. She realizes she mistyped her address and corrects it in the field next to the map. After previewing her listing again she submits it and receives a message that says “Thank you for submitting your listing.” At the top of this page, a message tells Cathy that her “Food Posting was Successfully Submitted” and links back to the main site. In the next hour she receives three RSVPs and decides to remove the listing.

Registered User Receives Notification

Ian is running out of grocery money and needs a quick meal. He heard from a friend about FoodBuzz, an online service that will give you information about free food on campus. He goes to the website, and when presented with the option to register as a consumer of food or to use the site without registering, he chooses to register knowing that he will use the site again in the future. By signing in he can register his e-mail address, instant messaging screen name or cell phone for notifications of events having free food on campus. There will also be an option for him to disable notifications during a block of time and specify any exclusion filters (i.e. allergies or food preferences). He registers his cell phone number because he has an unlimited text message plan. There is also a setting for the maximum number of e-mail or text messages per time period with the option of day, week, month and year. He immediately gets a text message to make sure the cell phone number is the correct one.

The next evening he gets a text message containing the text “Business Fellows Dinner: Leftover subs available in Van Munching 3130, 7:30pm until 8:00pm. Rating: 1.5.” He checks his clock and sees that it is 7:40pm. He can’t quite remember where Van Munching so logs into FoodBuzz and is presented with the most recent listings that he was informed of. He had registered a default location and it charts a walking path from his location to the event location. It says that it is five minutes away. When he reaches 3130 Van Munching he notices that three other people are walking out with three foot-long subs. As he walks in the door he sees the Business Fellows Dinner organizers packing up and one of them tells him that those were the last of the leftovers. He disappointedly walks back to his apartment and gives that organization a food rating of one pizza out of five with a comment that the Business Fellows Dinner ran out of leftovers in 15 minutes. He notices similar reviews that say if you’re not there right after the event ends you’re most likely not going to get food.

A Company Advertising to Students

Microsoft is holding an information session at which there will be pizza for the attendees. They have held these events in the past and there have always been leftover pizza slices. The event organizers have used FoodBuzz in the past to notify hungry students of leftover free food, but they have just registered with FoodBuzz for their previous event. When they start typing in their address it will automatically fill in their previous location. They also post a second event which includes the event name, how much food they think they could potentially have by the end of their event, the event location, and when the leftovers will be available for pick-up. They select next Thursday. All the details from the last session are already filled in. Because of the closeness of this event, they immediately see their event added to the FoodBuzz website’s listing and also notice that they have a high food rating – 4.5 out of 5. This is due to multiple positive comments about the five whole pizzas they had leftover at their last information session.

The event starts at 6:00pm and is eventually finished by 7:30pm with 4 pizzas leftover. A few FoodBuzz users already show up and take two of the pizzas. They remember they can update the listing’s content to “2 whole pizzas and 2 2-liter bottles of Sprite available until 8:00pm.” Two FoodBuzz users in the building get updates via text message and quickly come for the food. All but half of a pizza is eaten which one of the users takes home.

Notification Systems

1. Facebook’s event system (including Facebook mobile)

Different interfaces for event sponsor and event attendee. Allows three options to RSVP, and includes location and time information in listing. Privacy settings well tested.

2. Twitter.

Simplicity, immediacy and customizable settings to be notified of only certain information. Far more targeted than Facebook’s status updates. (“What? Why? How?”). Includes video of using the interface on website.

3. Listservs (Google Groups –, UMD Alerts –

Traditional notification system for use by organizations. Bloated features for what we’re interested in, but still fast and the options to unsubscribe are prominent, as are the frequency of notifications.

Goods and Transactions

4. Craigslist (

This web site provides users unfettered access to goods or services and puts most of the responsibility for payment and verification on the user. Don’t have to register to post or read listings.

5.’s Marketplace

Guarantees its user’s experience. Monetary transactions only, but it has the three step process which could be adapted to placing a notice or a listing. Has options to facilitate faster entries for registered users.

6. eBay (

Very time sensitive updates, and the auction process is a close analogue to the amount of people which an event’s food could support. If we were to accommodate a varying amount of interest in real time, the system that eBay has perfected would be useful to examine.

Maps and Tagging

7. Flickr (

Flickr also has very fast updates and tagging facilities. Geotagging is becoming popular and is a means of seeing who is interested in a single location. Their interface for tagging is new and mashable.

8. Google Maps

Google Maps is a well-established interface for selecting and printing location and direction information online. You can see markers and annotations provided by the API on external websites. Such a map would be a strong draw to representing available food.

9. Yahoo TagMaps (

An alternative mapping service that provides maps from tags using the Yahoo! Maps API. It can take input from any application, or from their own World Explorer.

10. MapsKrieg (

An example of a mash-up that takes locations for apartments and feeds from CraigsList and displays it using the Google Maps API. Allows you to search for a location and zoom in.

Academic Papers

11. E. Horvitz et al., “Models of attention in computing and communication: from principles to applications,” Commun. ACM, vol. 46, 2003, pp. 52-59; Principles of attention will be useful in any application that is using e-mail, instant messaging and SMS messaging to communicate with users. We will require some form of notification that is non-obtrusive on the application itself.

12. D.S. McCrickard, M. Czerwinski, and L. Bartram, “Introduction: design and evaluation of notification user interfaces,” International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, vol. 58, May. 2003, pp. 509-514; /science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WGR-487TVYM-&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1& _urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=ccb878d5b2aff6c6a6066a8e3271ba28. The results of this study will be useful because in designing this interface we want to be as least intrusive as possible. We also want to draw from the empirical studies as well as the current industry notification applications.