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This Google Maps app update might actually change some people’s lives

Published Jun 29th, 2021 6:08PM EDT
Google Maps app update
Image: Kyodo/Newscom/The Mega Agency

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Google has pushed out a slew of updates, additions, and improvements to its signature mobile maps product since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Among the many Google Maps app updates over the past year, we got new features like being able to see the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks in a given area. And other Google Maps features like popular times and busyness are more relevant than ever. Data like that can help us avoid crowds, one of the most important public health measures of the COVID-19 era.

The economic devastation from the pandemic has been widespread — catastrophic, even, in some areas and for some families. “The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that followed exacerbated hunger for millions of people,” Google explains in a company blog post introducing the Maps app update. “Feeding America estimates that the number of those without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable food grew to 45 million people in 2020, including 15 million children. That equates to one in seven Americans and is a nearly 30% increase from 2019.”

What’s new with this Google Maps app update

Google decided to launch this Maps app update, based partly on Google Search activity along these lines. Searches over the past year have soared for things like “food bank near me.” And “food stamps application.”

Starting today, users can turn to Google Maps for help finding the nearest food bank. This also includes things like food pantries and local school lunch program pickup sites. In all, 90,000 places with free food support across 50 states are included in this feature. And Google worked with No Kid Hungry, FoodFinder, and the US Department of Agriculture to put it together.

To use this data, first visit Google’s new Find Food Support site. Scroll down until you see a blank box, and enter your address. If you don’t see anything near you, try zooming the map out from your location.

This new site also provides information about how you can donate food to those in need. And it links to food support hotlines, state-by-state benefit guides, and information for specific communities — like families with children.

Food for Good

One additional note worth adding here with this Google Maps app update: This new Google site is a product of Google’s Food for Good team. This is a new entity that was launched to “create a smarter food system.” One that “knows where the food is, what state it’s in, and where best to direct it” to keep it from being wasted.

Here’s a sobering thought to consider, explaining why the Food for Good team exists. And how Google Maps can help:

Some 820 million people around the world don’t have access to food they need. And yet, about one-third of the world’s food goes to waste.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.