Voqal Fellow Yongjun Heo Fights Hunger with Technology
Not content with simply pursuing profit, today’s brightest young entrepreneurs are forging innovative paths to social change.
“I’m very passionate about social causes,” said Yongjun Heo, whose organization, Farepath, uses technology to fight hunger. “If I see a potential solution to a problem, I’ll think about ways the solution can be implemented.”
Several years ago, Heo’s brother, Jason, noticed the food pantry where he worked often faced shortages in donations. Recognizing that the methods being used to combat hunger were inefficient, the brothers began to brainstorm.
They came up with the idea for Farepath, a system enabling students to gather donations on a weekly basis from friends and neighbors, using a mobile app that tracks donations, provides instructions, and creates friendly competition amongst participants.
Heo, whose background is in web design and public health, was excited to use technology tools to help empower communities.
“The social sector lags behind the for-profit tech sector and we wanted to bring these tools into the social sector—this is an interesting space to use the tools and skills we have for good,” he said.
Along with the Farepath team’s hard work, a Voqal Fellowship helped bring the brothers’ initial idea to life. In 2013, Heo became a member of the inaugural class of the Voqal Fellowship, which provides funding and mentorship to those in the early stages of their careers who have big ideas for social change.
“The fellowship was crucial — Farepath wouldn’t have happened without it,” said Heo, who was able to focus exclusively on the project to get it off the ground during his fellowship.
Since then, Farepath has had a measurable effect on hunger. In its pilot year, the organization collected 3,000 pounds of food for the community of Chester, Penn., as well as data that is being used to enhance the mobile app and overall collection process.
“With this data, we’re going to be able to determine which students have gotten the most donations in a city or county,” Heo said. “We want to create competition and have a measuring tool to promote individuals doing a lot of good.”
Find out more about the Voqal Fellowship