Feeding America through Service Prototyping
Hunger impacts cognitive and physical development as well as physical, emotional, and social states of being. These impacts can be seen on an individual, community, and national level. In America, 42 million people are food insecure, making hunger a national issue.
To help design solutions for this national issue Feeding America and the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) approached the Northwestern Engineering Design Innovation program to bring fresh sets of eyes to the problem at hand. Within the complex problem of providing food to people who are food insecure, my team and I focused on how nonperishable items can be provided throughout people’s existing routines.
There are many different people that may be food insecure. Within this population, we specifically focused on people who have limited time, limited transportation options, and/or limited kitchen supplies.
- Physical & Digital prototyper
- Digital Journey mapper
- Stakeholder Map
- Journey Map
- Service Blueprint
- Foam Core Prototyping
- Adobe Illustrator
Upon the completion of our time with Feeding America, we proposed that a mobile, locker truck be implemented to help feed people with food insecurities. The locker truck would be mobile, allowing it to travel to areas in need. Additionally, the locker truck would be personal through the implementation of choice within meal selection and the creation of ownership through a locker matching system. Through supporting both of these values, the locker truck would have the ability to serve people with food insecurities
To understand the problem space better and empathize with our intended users, we conducted observations and interviews at food agencies, food kitchens, and homeless shelters. Additionally, we spoke with local food providers, like Jewel Osco and Trader Joes, to try and understand the system behind food rescue.
Ideation & Design
Based on our research we identified a potential white space area that we could pursue. We discovered that there are very little food options that utilize people’s existing routes. Combing a non-perishable food source with potentially greater access seemed like the ideal direction to pursue.
We brainstormed around possible designs that would utilize existing routes. Specifically, we examined spaces that involved transportation, outdoor public spaces, places with no hour limit, and stores.
From our brainstorming session we focused on structuring our ideas around the below personas. Additionally, we created several how might we statements that helped direct our prototypes.
How might we....
How might we bring food to where you are?
How might we welcome deviations in your routine?
How might we create a grab and go food experience?
During primary research, learned that many people who might be food insecure might not have access to smart phones and/or may be limited data wise, which could create difficulties when trying to implement phone or heavily tech-based component. Thus, decided before brainstorming that we weren’t going to implement any prototypes that utilized mobile phones
We presented our ideas to Feeding America and GCFD. Within this presentation we wanted to gauge their interest level as well as discern if our ideas supplemented their current design directions or took them an entirely new direction that they may want to pursue.
To help illustrate the implementation and use cases our of prototypes I created a service blueprint that walks through the interactions, front stage actions, and backstage actions that could occur within our mobile food truck prototype, the eventually prototype we continued with.
Additionally, I created a journey map to explore and explain a possible scenario focused on our intended users and our iterated mobile food truck prototype.
For the rest of the project, Feeding America asked my teammates and me to focus on how we might bring food to where people currently are in the form of a locker food truck. My team and I released foam core models of our locker truck out into the Chicagoland area. Through this testing we were able to evaluate the validity of our idea as well as experiment with the trust and approachability created with a volunteer versus a standalone interface.
From usability testing, we learned that starting off with a volunteer with the first release of a mobile, locker truck would help establish confidence and trust within potential users. Additionally, we saw the opportunity for expansion and implementation of the mobile, locker food truck in the future. As lockers began to become more popular, standalone lockers could be implemented to provide people with food insecurities 24/7 hour access to food. Additionally, with the emergence of refrigerated lockers, our initial mobile, locker truck could be modified to accommodate nonperishables and provide people with food insecurities additional food options.
Watch an explanation of our locker truck: enRoute
I’d like the thank my teammates Shoshi Shapiro, Joe Burke, David Jacob, and Byron Pang for all of their hard work on this project and continual efforts to create the best experience possible for people with food insecurities.
I would also like to thank our professors Amy O’Keefe and Elisa Vargas for their continual leadership and support throughout the entire process.
I couldn’t have dreamed of a better service experience and I am incredibly proud of the work my teammates and I were able to produce over the course of ten weeks.