The Food Connection website grew out of a Human Centered Design (HCD) course from IDEO and +Acumen. My classmates and I started with the question, "how might we help those in need make healthier food choices." Using IDEO's process (Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation) we worked through the problem. The process reshaped our initial assumptions and helped us identify and work on the real issues.
We worked collaboratively on most aspects of the project but took turns leading activities. As a result, I led or participated in our learning through immersion sessions, interviews, brainstorming, and storyboarding. I created the prototype in Adobe XD and then added and adjusted it based on feedback from my classmates and our interviews. I had input on the other deliverables (journey map, story board, PPT presentation), helping with language, providing feedback and so on.
Learning Through Immersion
Before starting our research, we hypothesized that many people didn't eat healthy foods due to a limited understanding of nutrition. To test our assumptions in the real world, we volunteered at a local food pantry. As we volunteered, we talked one-on-one with the participants who came to pick up food and with the more experienced volunteers. We also sat down with the director of the pantry after the food distribution ended. All our observations and discussions made clear that we had missed the mark with our hypothesis. In reality, the participants wanted to make healthy choices and had a good understanding of what that meant. The issue turned out to be that the pantry had a hard time supplying many of the fresh items that make up most healthy diets.
Brainstorming & Storyboarding
Once we completed our interviews, we ideated solutions to the problem. As we came up with ideas, we grouped them by theme, narrowed it down to our top three themes, and voted. Our chosen solution focused on what we'd identified as the biggest barrier to healthy eating: a lack of supply. We used created a storyboard for our solution that showed how users would adopt the idea, starting with awareness and going all the way through full adoption.
From talking with the food bank director and from experience at other food distribution centers, we knew that grocery stores regularly made donations. We had also learned that food banks never know what they will get or when. Often a store will donate more than a food bank can distribute before it spoils. To address this, we proposed a centralized database where grocery stores and food banks with excess supply list surplus items. Food banks that need items can reserve and schedule pick ups through the database. If enough food banks and grocery stores committed, then the supply of fresh food would, hopefully, be sufficient for food banks to meet the demand for fresh, healthy foods.
With our concept defined, I created a prototype in Adobe XD. Aside from the type of food available, we learned that the proximity of the donated food is most important consideration for whether or not a food bank can pick up the food. To address this, I made a map showing the location of the food a prominent feature of food selection process (partially shown above) and included distance as a filter. In addition to the food selection process, the prototype included a signup form and an area for participating grocery stores to upload food. The prototype also had clickable and scrollable areas to help potential users understand the concept. We went through a few rounds of internal feedback before sharing the prototype.
During our feedback session, the director of the food bank we volunteered at, conveyed the need for a private message board where members could share insights on changing demographics and other developments in their programs. So, I updated the prototype to include a message board (shown above). The director also expressed concern that grocery stores would be unwilling to participate. However, all our research identified the lack of a consistent and affordable supply of healthy food as the biggest obstacle to encouraging healthy eating. Grocery stores had so much potential to meet this need, that we opted to keep them until we could spend time discussing the plan with them. With their feedback, we would then re-evaluate whether or not to include them in the database. (Unfortunately, the class did not allow for actually discussing with the grocery stores, so this question remained unanswered.)
Working with, interviewing, and interacting with potential users, allowed us to discover where our assumptions fell short and where the real issues lay. If we had designed based on our initial assumptions, without talking to users, we would have solved the wrong problem. Instead, we framed the issue correctly before working on how to solve it. Storyboarding and prototyping helped us to flesh out our ideas. Testing the prototype helped us to further refine the issue.