Piloting Feeding America’s first neighbor-facing service, Helpful Harvest, to improve access to charitable food 

Helpful

Harvest

WHAT

Feeding America's
Grocery Ordering Service

WHEN

Jun 2019 - Sep 2019

ROLE

Innovation Intern

SKILLS GAINED

Service Design

Transformative Innovation

Service Experiment

Feasibility & Viability Testing

Experiment Synthesis

Design Research

Design Strategy

Cross Department Collab

Strategic Storytelling

Google Analytics

Adobe XD

Wordpress

Food insecure neighbors experience emotional and physical barriers to the traditional food pantry model. The long waiting time and the limited open hours at food pantries prevent many neighbors from accessing charitable food. Moreover, the stigma associated with food pantries could also drive neighbors away. Feeding America’s Innovation Team is piloting a grocery click-and-collect service, Helpful Harvest, to improve access to charitable food today. With Helpful Harvest, neighbors can shop Food Bank’s inventory online and pick it up at a nearby, discreet, and convenient location, such as a YMCA or a library. Helpful Harvest addresses emotional barriers and improves convenience for neighbors, it enables Food Banks to distribute more food with less cost, and it is the first step for Feeding America to support additional digitally-enabled interactions that address a range of neighbors’ needs.

Problems

"I feel others would judge me if I asked for help... I would feel like I am taking from others."                                      - Amanda

"We are not destitute! There are people worse off than us... We have what we need. We don't need to ask for help." - Joe

 

Food insecurity has many faces. Yet, generalization and stigma that associate with food insecurity often prevent various types of food-insecure neighbors from getting the help they deserve. Many neighbors feel embarrassed to access charitable food. Some of them feel like they are taking resources away from those who are more in need than them.

For Neighbors

Emotional Barriers

The long waiting time and the limited open hours at food pantries are huge barriers for food-insecure neighbors to access food through food pantries. In multiple conversations, we heard that people wait 2~4 hours at food pantries. Moreover, for working neighbors, it is difficult for them to visit a food pantry during working hours.

Physical Barriers

Findings

10k unserved in Reynoldsburg

Through the American Community Survey data, Mid-Ohio Food Bank estimates in Reynoldsburg City, around 10k people are experiencing food insecurity but are not using the charitable food system. 

 

Agencies serve 616 people/month, reaching max capacity

Currently, all the agencies (like food pantries) in Reynoldsburg together open 88 hours per month, which on average serves 616 people per month. Agencies are reaching their maximum capacity with existing funding and staffing, which often results in up-to-3-hour wait lines at these pantries. 

 

Food Bank is paying $75k/year

Mid-Ohio Food Bank has more food to give, but the agencies do not have enough capacity to distribute more food. Mid-Ohio Foodbank is paying 75k per year to subsidize rent and staffing to support new agencies.

For Food Banks & Agencies

Capacity Constraints 

“We thought about offering a food pantry, but we didn’t have space."                                                   - Madison YMCA CEO

Many community partners have the desire to serve their neighbors in more ways. They are trusted in their community and often serve as a community hub. Improving food security is often a priority for many community partners. However, many of them don't have the resources, expertise, funding or spaces to provide food to their neighbors. 

For Community Partners

Expertise Limitation

growth projection.PNG

FANO growth projections are limited by the capacity-constrained agency model. 

Improving the food security of our nation requires finding ways to get more nutritious food to more people. Today, roughly 85% of Food Banks’ food gets to neighbors via agencies.

 

However, growth in pounds per agency has been slowing since 2016 and fell last year. An average agency today moves 58,800 lbs of food bank food per year, which is 3% less than the previous year.

To achieve Feeding America's Supply Chain 2025 goal, which is to push 1.5 billion more pounds of food, the average agency would need to distribute 41% more than they do today or add the capacity of 25k more average capacity agencies to handle this additional food. The agency distribution model is not scalable, leading to a limited growth projection for Feeding America.

For Feeding America

Limited Growth Projection & Scalability

Solutions

Helpful Harvest

Your online source of grocery when in need

Helpful Harvest is an online click-and-collect grocery service for those in need. Neighbors can shop for groceries online and pick them up at a nearby, convenient, discreet location, such as a library or a YMCA. 

How It Works.

 

It is reaching the unreached.

On average, 94% of Helpful Harvest users are food-insecure. 38% of users are not going to pantries. Among the 6 experiments we conducted, college town has the highest percentage, 65%, of users who are not using food pantries. Helpful Harvest is reaching the previously unreached neighbors.

It is a digital platform that is scalable and complementary to other services.

Digital options are best due to scalability across the Network of Food Banks with little capital investment. Beyond capacity expanding services, Digital also adds a critical link to connect with neighbors on their own terms. Starting with groceries, Helpful Harvest can grow to support additional digitally-enabled interactions that address a range of neighbors’ needs and help overcome the barriers they face.

Why It Matter.

Desirability.

Why would food-insecure neighbors use Helpful Harvest?

Meet me where I am. Respect my privacy.

“It’s nice that I can come, grab a box, and walk out. No one has to know why. That eliminates another barrier for access.”                                          - Helpful Harvest user

“I think it was very easy and there’s anonymity to ordering online, that helps.”            - Helpful Harvest user

SCOPE

ORGANIZE

LAUNCH

Start small & adjust

Scale

Learn about Helpful Harvest

Is it right for my Food Bank?

Make the case

Identify where to start

Set up partnership

Set up operation

  1. Use Need Mapping Tool to identify the unserved population in your service areas and to the potential impact, using data from Service Insight, Mission Insite, and Mapping the Meal Gap.
     

  2. Use Capacity Calculation Tool to understand what type of service model you should adopt with your Food Bank's capacity, including food sourcing, staffing, spaces, and funding.

New Doc 2019-07-17 11.24.57_5.jpg

Feasibility.

How do Food Banks adopt Helpful Harvest?

  1. Finding the right Messaging Partners is key to reach the unreached
     

  2. Discuss with your Pick-up Partner  to find the right pick-up model. 

 

Viability

Can Food Bank afford to run Helpful Harvest?

Explicit Need from Food Bank Network

Over 50 food banks voiced their interest in adopting Helpful Harvest

 

Avoid Fragmentation, Again

Some bigger Food Banks and Agencies, like Mid-Ohio Food Bank and Lakeview Pantry, are just starting to build their own digital platforms to serve their neighbors. These platforms will be difficult to translate across different Food Banks and Agencies if they are developed separately. It is the perfect time for Feeding America to work with these bigger Food Banks and Agencies to develop a digital solution that can be translatable and scalable across Feeding America's network of Food Banks and Agencies.

 

Could Fund Itself

Donor Relations finds Helpful Harvest compelling to fund

Why Now?

 

Process & Learning

User Research

- Access 2.0

Feeding America Innovation Team conducted an in-depth design research focused on how food-insecure neighbor access (or not) charitable food.

Co-creation w/ a Food Bank

Innovation Team collaborated with 3 Food Banks to co-create new solutions that address the user needs found in Access 2.0 Research project. One of the solutions is Helpful Harvest, co-created by Northern Illinois Food Bank & Innovation Team.

Pilot Experiments

In summer 2019, I joined the Innovation Team as an intern. We conducted 6 pilot experiments with Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin and The Dayton Food Bank to test uncertainties and hypothesis we have for Helpful Harvest.

Next Step: Scale

Currently, Innovation Team is working with the Supply Chain Team, Program Team and Leadership Team to build a long-term plan for Helpful Harvest.

Pilot Experiments to Learn Fast

1. Setup

We selected two Food Banks and provided them with grants to pilot Helpful Harvest. We built a minimal viable prototype, which was a simple Wordpress site for Helpful Harvest grocery ordering. Together, we tested the entire service, including setting up partner relationships, finding viable solutions for food sourcing, designing the pick-up experiences, and more.

Second Harvest Food Bank, Madison, WI

  • Medium food bank

  • Existing informal partner relations

  • Aspirational leadership

  • 4 experiments

Food Banks will reach significantly more of the target neighbors by piggybacking on well-known, trusted community organizations, like YMCA, and relevant social media community groups, like Food Shed.

2. Hypothesis & Learning

a. Messaging Partners

What is the right message, medium, channel to reach our target audience?

Uncertainty

Food Banks will reach significantly more of the target neighbors by piggybacking on existing partner messaging channels that reach people with related needs.

Hypothesis

We collaborated with diverse messaging partners to help spread the word of Helpful Harvest during each experiment. These partners include YMCA, Facebook groups and social workers.

Experiment

Food Banks will reach significantly more of the target neighbors by piggybacking on well-known, trusted community organizations, like YMCA, and relevant social media community groups, like Food Shed.

Learning

b. Pick-up Experience

What is the right pick-up experience that balances user needs for privacy and speed with Food Bank and partner needs for traceability and efficiency?

Uncertainty

An experience that provides passive oversight, an easy way for neighbors to indicate order was not picked up and the Food Bank collecting no-shows will provide sufficient confirmation and easy experience to satisfy all stakeholders. 

Hypothesis

In each experiment, we worked with various pick-up partners to test out different pick-up model, including drive-through pick-up, self-service pick-up and more.

Experiment

We proved that 3 pick-up models, integrated drive-through model, integrated pick-up model, and self-service model, are able to strike the balance of providing neighbors with privacy and allowing minimal staff capacity

Learning

There are 3 proven pick-up models that strike the balance of providing neighbors with privacy and allowing minimal staff capacity.

Integrated Drive-Thru

Integrated Pick-Up

Self-Service

Staffed by partner's volunteers

Passively monitored by partner's staff

No staff

c. No-Show Rate

What is the right pick-up experience that balances user needs for privacy and speed with Food Bank and partner needs for traceability and efficiency?

Uncertainty

A cadence of reminders with email, SMS, and call will result in fewer no-shows or calls ahead to reschedule.

Hypothesis

In each experiment, we evolved the ways we did reminders and tested the change in no-show rates.

Experiment

A cadence of reminders and a confirmation action performed by users help reduce the no-show rate. The cadence includes:

  1. an order confirmation

  2. a one-day reminder with confirmation action

  3. a day-off reminder

  4. a 30-min-before-closing reminder. help reduce the no-show rate.

Learning

Team & Partners

Feeding America Internal Team 

Innovation Team (Core Team)

  • Maura Shea, Vice President

  • Dan Butt, Senior Manager & Service Designer

  • Kevin Kastenholz, Business Director

  • Joanne Hsu, Innovation Intern

Program Team

  • Emily Catalano, Digital Specialist

Supply Chian Team, Research Team

External Partners

  • Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin

  • The Dayton Food Bank

  • Northern Illinois Food Bank

  • Lussier Family East YMCA

  • Fairborn Library

  • Mid-Ohio Food Bank

Copyright © 2018 Joanne Ting-Yu Hsu

Email:  joanne.ty.hsu@gmail.com

  • Black Instagram Icon
  • Black LinkedIn Icon