Students enjoy a meal in Lower Court at the University Center. Lower Court serves buffet-style meals and is open Monday through Friday. (Xilong Liu/B&W staff)

Hungry Hawks: Students launch an app to reduce food waste


The Office of Sustainability announced a new mobile app and web interface called Hungry Hawks that aims to reduce food waste and food insecurity by allowing students to pick up free leftover food on campus. 

Computer science and business majors Joshua Yang, ’22, Connor Greene, ’22, and Dave Jha, ’22, developed the app and launched it in partnership with the Office of Sustainability on the Android app market and Apple app store on Feb. 7.

Yang said the group has been working on the app for the last three and a half years.

“Hungry Hawks is a mobile application that Lehigh students can use to minimize food waste from group activities such as club meetings and events,” Yang said.

Greene originally came up with the project idea, creating an initial version of the app in January 2020. He then met Jha and Yang, and the three students agreed to work on the project together. 

The app idea originated from a campus GroupMe group called “Free Leftover Food at Lehigh,” which had over 450 members.

Greene said their group not only focused on the structure of the app, but also on the importance of the design. 

After the project started to grow, Yang said they began working with the Office of Sustainability to develop a strategy for launching Hungry Hawks on Lehigh’s campus. The office helped connect them with various campus groups that organize events where food is served. 

“The app comes after almost two years of hard work and dedication by a team of student developers in consultation with the Office of Sustainability, Lehigh catering, Library and Technology Services (LTS), the Office of the General Counsel and risk management,” sustainability officer Katharine Gross said.

Jha said while creating the app, they ran into some issues, such as navigating the legal risks that are present with offering free, non-verified food to the community. 

 “There are lots of cases to consider, such as what happens if the food is left out for too long and someone gets sick from the food, to ensuring that allergens are properly communicated,” Jha said. “We also had a few bugs and issues we found in the early days of release that we are trying to fix and release quickly.”

 Jha said the cumbersome process made for a steep learning curve. He learned how to create safety features such as the auto-expiration of food, marking food as finished and enhanced auditing and admin toggles, which will allow the team to troubleshoot quickly should users encounter any issues.

Yang said in just the first few days of the release, they have garnered a positive response from the community with hundreds of downloads so far. He said many students have already started posting about events and picking up food. 

“We saw great potential to make a difference on campus,” sustainability program manager Audrey McSain said in an  email. “The response to Hungry Hawks has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people are aware of the fact that at many campus events, perfectly good and untouched food goes to waste. ”

Yang said the team hopes they continue to see participation from the community.

Greene said the team has long-term goals of expanding to South Bethlehem if the app proves to be successful at Lehigh.

Greene said they would begin their expansion with local food banks, farmers markets and other college campuses.  

Yang said he was fortunate to work on the Hungry Hawks project and feels a sense of accomplishment seeing the Lehigh community use the app. As a senior, he hopes the app will be used for years to come once he has graduated. 

Gross said she is thrilled to see the launch of the Hungry Hawks mobile app and web interface come to fruition as it will reduce food waste and food insecurity on Lehigh’s campus.

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