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Lakota teens design system to help food pantry save time, money

Posted on: May 7, 2016

Lakota teens design system to help food pantry save time, money

By Michael D. Clark, Journal-News Staff Writer

LIBERTY TWP. — 

You can’t provide a steady stream of donated food to families in need if you don’t know what’s on your pantry shelves.

That’s the dilemma and challenge officials from Reach Out Lakota brought to some Lakota East High School computer science students two months ago.

The food bank charity need a computerized inventory control system but didn’t have the more than $25,000 estimated it would cost to purchase a customized one.

But thanks to the teens’ hard work they will soon have a near real-time inventory control system that will alert them to any coming shortages of food without suffering any shortage of money.

“Their system will give us an alert if we are putting the last cans of pork and beans on our shelves,” said Tim Harmon, food coordinator for the Reach Out Lakota.

“These are great kids,” said Harmon, praising the nearly dozen Lakota East students who volunteered beyond their class time to develop the customized food inventory system.

“What their work will mean to needy families is it will make our job easier as we try to get the (donated) food in the back door and out the front door to our clients,” Harmon said.

“And this will enable us to process donations much faster,” he said.

It’s the sort of real-world lesson Lakota East computer science teacher Dave McKain wanted for his junior and senior students.

“This year we decided to tackle some projects that might benefit some of the nonprofit organizations in the community. The students learned how to design and write code to manage a database system to replace the Excel spreadsheet that (Reach Out Lakota) is currently using. They also had to learn how to interface with a scanner and barcode system,” McKain said.

The work was satisfying intellectually but more so emotionally, said Lakota East senior and co-project manager Bobby Yost.

“I grew up in the Lakota school system and I’ve seen how much Reach Out Lakota does to help families, which is awesome,” Yost said. “Now I’m able to give back something to the group.”

Classmate and fellow project manager Mitch Bockhorst agreed, saying “it feels really good” to use their knowledge to help the organization.

“We definitely thought we could help them when they came to us with their problem,” Bockhorst said.

Lakota Board of Education President Lynda O’Connor joined other board members in praising the Lakota East students after their presentation of their project at a school board meeting.

O’Connor said the teens’ experience will be invaluable but even greater will be “the impact you will have on families.”

Open Pantry Hours: M:5 -7pm | W & F: 10a - 12p | Located at: 6561 Station Road, West Chester, OH 45069 (Not Mailing Address)

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