Flathead Student Uses Technology to Address Childhood Hunger

Sophia Skwarchuk learns to develop smartphone app that pools resources for those in need

By Dillon Tabish
Gov. Steve Bullock snaps a selfie with Sophia Skwarchuk, a junior at Flathead High School, as they raise awareness about childhood hunger at ImagineIf Library in Kalispell on April 12, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

As a member of the statewide Youth Leadership Council, Sophia Skwarchuk focused her attention on a basic yet significant problem in Montana.

According to research, an estimated one in five Montana children struggle with food insecurity, or inadequate food sources.

A junior at Flathead High School, Skwarchuk realized that she could help younger generations through technology, so she went to work. The 17-year-old went to the public library in downtown Kalispell and studied a book on coding. Despite never studying information technology until then, she developed a smartphone application after only a couple months.

The application, called Montana Eats, is now available on Android smartphones and it pools together food resources and information, such as the locations of food banks across the state, emergency assistance contacts and more.

“I came up with the idea for this app because it’s so important that we have a place where people can come together in a community to get the resources they need,” she said.

On April 12, during “Fight Childhood Hunger Week,” Gov. Steve Bullock congratulated Skwarchuk at a ceremony debuting the app at the ImagineIf Library in Kalispell, calling the Flathead student a “rock star” who used her “energy, excitement and innovation” to address a pressing issue in Montana.

“From Rocky Boy to Lima and from Glasgow to Kalispell, these students are giving their talents and passion back to the community and showing that they can make a difference when it comes to hunger,” said Bullock. “I look forward to joining these students during Fight Childhood Hunger Week in raising awareness of this important issue. It’s truly incredible to see the positive impact that youth can have on those around them.”

Later that week, Bullock announced that $55,000 in privately funded grants were being awarded to 18 schools across Montana to fund school breakfast programs, including Cayuse Prairie Elementary School, West Valley Elementary, Napi Elementary, Browning Elementary and Libby Elementary.

Skwarchuk said she hopes to see the app grow with more information and one day reach the entire U.S.

“Childhood hunger is a huge issue that we need to face, and coming together as a community and pooling all of our resources together is something that can help us make a huge step forward,” she said.

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