Students compete to solve San Antonio’s food insecurity problem

SA Smart challenge kicks off; winners to be announced Friday by Mayor Nirenberg

It’s pitch week for some students across San Antonio as over a dozen teams from different schools are taking part in this year’s SA Smart challenge.

SAN ANTONIO – It’s pitch week for some students across San Antonio as over a dozen teams from different schools are taking part in this year’s SA Smart challenge.

Teams had roughly seven minutes to virtually pitch a solution concerning the city’s food insecurities to a panel of judges.

“We wrote down every idea possible, eliminated the ideas that were probably not feasible and then afterwards narrowed it down to the ones we thought could be possible,” senior Abigail Ibarra of John Jay Science and Engineering Academy said.

SA Smart is a cooperative effort between the San Antonio mayor’s office, local STEM education and other area nonprofits. Following the long lines at the food banks this past year and with the winter freeze in February, food insecurity across the city was highlighted.

Ibarra and her team said they began working on a solution in February.

“Our idea was to use unused commercial buildings to have these food bank services that are closer to people who actually need it. We would want to figure out where most people who are struggling with those food insecurities are and try to put a location as close to their neighborhood as possible,” Ibarra said.

The President of ACIR, Erik Azulay, mentors adults looking for help with startups and other entrepreneurs around the world. Azulay is one of the judges and was impressed with the ideas that the students were coming up with.

" I’m thrilled to see that we’re starting to teach these skills so much earlier in the educational system,” Azulay said.

Not only are are the students learning about the conflicts cities face, but they are applying their STEM education to a purpose that will have a positive impact on their neighborhoods.

" In the end, this is for people of San Antonio. We want to make sure that everyone has food on their plate. We don’t want people to let their insecurities get in the way of getting something that they need in the end,” Ibarra said.

The challenge ends Friday, with winners to be announced by Mayor Ron Nirenberg. First place will receive the Mayor’s Cup trophy along with the possibility of their idea being put into place in the Alamo City.


About the Authors:

Jason Foster is an executive producer at KSAT. He's worked in the news industry in Texas for more than 15 years, including as a photojournalist, and been at KSAT since 2015.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.