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12 apps designed to support Pittsburgh kids and their families

Candy Williams
March28/ 2018

Pittsburgh families in need of essential services – from accessing child care to making healthy food choices – can find help a click away. A number of local apps are as close as a smartphone to provide a lifeline in times of crisis.

Here are some of the best free apps that connect Pittsburgh to organizations offering helpful advice and answers.Pittsburgh apps

Green Light Foods

Green Light Foods is an app developed by Phipps Conservatory and Let’s Move Pittsburgh initiative in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University. The app uses a green-yellow-red stoplight system to help families make healthy food choices by identifying the healthiest cereals, snacks and beverages.

The user scans the barcode on packaged food items while grocery shopping to learn how much fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar they contain. Green Light Foods scans barcodes for packaged items only. For nutrition information on fruits and vegetables, Let’s Move Pittsburgh recommends using the USDA Dietary Guidelines.

Pittsburgh apps


Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has an app designed to provide advice about pediatric conditions, to help find first-aid, after-hours and emergency care, and to compare symptoms to help decide what to do when a child is ill or hurt. Experts offer advice for parents’ questions about behaviors, eating and wellness, and help with dosage information for common over-the-counter medications.

Originally launched in 2011, the app has been redesigned for easier access to resources for children with disabilities, support services and education programs, as well as neighborhood services and advocacy programs.

Allegheny County Services

Families in Allegheny County can access information by downloading three apps:

  • Emergency Services app provides important details about 911 Communications, Emergency Management, and Emergency Medical Services.
  • Allegheny Alerts offers notifications about important community news, including health issues, air quality and unscheduled closings or program changes.
  • Park Trails offers descriptions of trails located within the county’s nine parks, including trail length, level of difficulty and elevation profiles.

Compass Childcare

Compass Childcare is an app that searches childcare centers in a geographic area, operated through the State Department of Welfare. The Subsidized Child Care Program helps low-income families pay a portion of their childcare fees. The state and federal governments fund this program, which is managed by the Childcare Information Services office in your county.


RUSafe is an interactive app that assesses the potential for domestic violence and harm in a dangerous relationship. Developed by the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh and Aspirant, the app can help someone understand possible threats and connect them to nearby emergency shelters and domestic violence hotlines through GPS, simply by answering a few questions about the relationship.

Kathy Marecic, RUSafe coordinator, says the app “is a potentially life-saving tool to help victims escape dangerous domestic violence situations by directing them to the closest qualified crisis center.”

Big Burgh

Big Burgh app started out as a way for Pittsburgh police to help find shelters for homeless youths and families. It’s grown to include additional services through the efforts of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund and Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation.

The app makes it possible for users to identify their age and gender, then find venues for shelter, food, a place to shower or eat, medical and dental help and other services. The app is a user-friendly tool that empowers people to help themselves and help others find important resources in Pittsburgh.

“It’s current, and that’s key,” says Carlos T. Carter, executive director of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund. The app has had more than 100,000 hits since the service was launched in August 2016. Information is provided in English and Spanish.

Big Burgh is continuously updated to provide the latest contact information for a wide range of emergency issues, including a rape hotline, domestic violence shelters, LGBT safe places and mental health crisis centers. Plans include the addition of an opioid crisis feature.

United Way 21 and Able

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s 21 and Able initiative is helping to support young people with disabilities through its PA Planning for the Future Checklist available on its app.

21 and Able is working to create a roadmap for youth with disabilities who are transitioning out of the education and supportive services system to continue their education, work, and live independently.

“We strive to help people with disabilities reach their employment goals and find competitive jobs,” says Heather Sedlacko, director of programs for seniors and people with disabilities, United Way of Southwestern PA. “It is our hope this app will help more Pennsylvanians find success.”Pittsburgh apps

412 Food Rescue

Pittsburgh-based 412 Food Rescue’s mission is to partner with food retailers and nonprofit organizations to bring healthy food directly to those experiencing food insecurity rather than trashing unsold food.

The organization’s app encourages volunteers to be a “food rescue hero” by delivering food from vendors to nonprofits serving people who need it. The Food Rescue Hero app provides the connection between volunteers, donors and partners.

About 40 percent of food is wasted nationally, while 1 in 7 people go hungry. 412 leaders are hoping to shift the odds.Pittsburgh apps


Pittsburgh wrestler Kurt Angle, who won a gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, shares his struggle with addiction and recovery and offers help for others in his AngleStrong app.

AngleStrong is an early intervention tool designed to assist with avoiding relapse and re-hospitalization for those working on reaching their own recovery goals. Features can be customized to provide several benefits, including daily check-ins to monitor progress, daily reminders to keep on track, and inspirational messages from Angle.

“It’s truly a recovery management app for everyone,” says Angle, who participates in monthly live video chats (the next one is 8:30 p.m. April 12) to answer questions on addiction and recovery. “It’s also a great tool for parents or loved ones who want to stay connected, yet hold their distance, with the person in recovery.”

PA 2-1-1

While not an app, this service is important enough to be included. Families can get help through United Way’s PA 2-1-1 Southwest, part of the national 2-1-1 Call Centers initiative that provides a phone number and web resource for finding health and human services – for everyday needs and in crisis situations.

Specially trained 2‑1‑1 call specialists provide referrals to resources such as food banks, shelters, rent and utility payment assistance, as well as crisis intervention services, support groups, help for older adults and those with disabilities, youth and child care programs and regional disaster preparation.

Community members in Allegheny and surrounding counties can call 2-1-1 from their phone or visit the website to chat with a resource navigator or browse available resources.

Candy Williams

Candy Williams is a freelance writer and journalist whose articles have appeared in national and local publications. She lives in the South Hills.

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