UI student builds website mapping Iowa City meal locations for those in need

The closure of K-12 schools in response to COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many students without access to meals. Millions of students, in school districts big and small, rely on the free or discounted meals they eat at school.

Russell Martin, a senior at the University of Iowa, has created a website mapping out local food banks, soup kitchens and schools serving meals throughout the Iowa City area to residents in need. The map also includes locations for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Women, Infant, and Children program.

“Over spring break, I saw a story about some college students in California who had made a similar resource. They made this big map for the bay area with all the different places K-12 students could go to get meals,” said Martin. “I thought it would be useful to make something similar for the Iowa City area.”

Martin combined data using Google Maps and Google Sheets to create a map that features 41 sites in Iowa City and its surrounding communities. In addition to K–12 schools, food pantries, and soup kitchens, Martin included sites where individuals can apply for the state’s Food Assistance program, including WIC and SNAP.

The website includes a layout of Iowa City, and has different symbols depicting where schools, food pantries, soup kitchens and assistance programs are located, depending on a user’s needs.

Once a user clicks on a location, a tab on the left will provide them with information such as its address, hours, eligibility, website and contact information, and the provider.

Martin says he plans to create a tutorial to help others create similar projects for their own communities.

“I’m just a bored college kid making this. The people who are really doing the leg work for this kind of effort are the food bank associations and the schools,” said Martin. “I’m just trying to connect people with those amazing resources and groups.”

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