Tech with a purpose

Mordecai Logan is connecting food deserts to farmers with an easy-to-use app

When Mordecai Logan’s mom tells him to get dressed and get in the car, she doesn’t have to ask twice.

In this case, his mom had gotten an email about the Futures Fund, a mentorship program through the Walls Project. It trains young people in career-building trades such as coding and photography. She was intent on enrolling her son in the semester-long program—no ifs, ands or buts.

Mordecai, now a 17-year-old Baton Rouge Magnet High School student, had some experience in coding when he joined the Futures Fund in 2017. But he never imagined it would see him presenting an app in front of judges last year at the Junior Achievement Big Pitch competition.

As part of a work-study program through the Futures Fund, Mordecai was the project lead for Uproot Market, an app he calls a “digital farmers market” that connects residents in food deserts with local farmers providing fresh fruits and vegetables.

Through Uproot Market, farmers and other vendors can create an account and upload information on fresh produce they have available. Users can browse the options closest to them and also see recipes and other tips on how to use certain vegetables and fruits they might not be familiar with.

Mordecai says when his team started brainstorming how to put their coding skills to work, they immediately thought of things they could do to help the community.

“There are people in Baton Rouge who don’t have good access to fresh produce, and we wanted to solve that,” Mordecai says. “In these food deserts, there are only a small number of grocery stores, but there are also so many convenience stores that can really lead to unhealthy habits.”

While Mordecai and his team are still working to get the app up and running—their planned launch is in spring 2021—they’ve already got some highly visible local backers. The Red Stick Farmers Market, Southside Produce, Grow Baton Rouge and the Walls Project’s Baton Roots program have all signed on as partners of the business. And the students all get paid while they work on the app—instilling in them that these kinds of creative skills can help them professionally in the future.

And once Mordecai sees the app on the digital market, he doesn’t plan to stop there. His goals are to attend college in computer science and eventually become a full-time developer.

But no matter where he goes next, the Uproot Market app will have a special meaning for him.

“Outside of coding, one of my main passions is cooking,” he says. “Sitting down with family is really important to me, and my family loves all kinds of vegetables. When I found out there was an area of town that really didn’t have those fruits and vegetables available, it made me wonder where I would be if I didn’t have access to that.” thewallsproject.org/futuresfund

This article was originally published as part of the October 2020 cover story of 225 Magazine.