Students Launch Website To Feed Starving Children

May 2, 2016

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but in the case of a group of Illinois State University students, a picture is worth a million meals.  

Jonathon Malone will be graduating and moving on to a job at State Farm but he’ll continue working on a class project even after he has his diploma in hand.

Malone and fellow classmates Ellen Schumacher, Lulu Solorzano and Josh Zayas are raising money for the global food program Feed My Starving Children, a favorite charity of Associate Professor Yongmei Liu who teaches Leading Organizational Change.

The students are modeling their effort off of a fundraising idea from British College student Alex Tew who created milliondollarhomepage.com, a crowdfunding website with a photo embedded behind 1 million pixels to raise money to pay for college.

“And for each pixel that you purchase, then we’re gonna reveal one pixel of a hidden image with the idea that once all 1 million meals are donated, then all 1 million meals will reveal the hidden image below,” he said.

Each pixel will cost 22 cents, the price of a meal the charity can provide to help feed people in more than 50 countries around the world. At that price, the group would need to crowdfund nearly $220,000 to reach its goal.

Tapping Resources

The group is working with Information Technology Professor Billy Lim’s class and a campus web development club led by students Jared Weiss and Adrian Garcia to build a website where a photo is hidden behind 1 million pixels. Malone got them involved when he realized the effort was beyond his computer skills.

Professor Liu is impressed with Malone’s leadership. “He had an idea that was really exciting and inspiring. So not only did he have the passion. He had a vision, ” she said. But Liu thinks Malone has a special talent that will serve him well in business. “He’s also really good at identifying the resources that he needs to move things forward.”

Malone believes people want to give to an organization that strives to wipe out world hunger but they need to be given the opportunity.  He is also convinced such a noble cause will drive donations, but curiosity might be what helps them actually hit their goal.

“The curiosity factor, we just thought it would be a fun way to try to encourage a few more page visits and try to get people to buy into the end result. So if they do donate early on, they would hopefully come back in,” he added.

One lesson Malone and the others have learned through their efforts will no doubt be repeated when they get into the working world -- big projects involving many players often face delays. It’s because of those delays the business class and other team members have had to commit to raising awareness and driving donations well past graduation.