College food pantries only address a part of a user's needs and neglect the obstacles of cooking and storing food as students.
IDI Design Challenge
Sep 2018 - Feb 2019
Design Process Facilitation
Testing for Unknowns
Many colleges have systems in place to support first-generation and low-income students, but these systems often only address a part of the user's needs. Moreover, students that fall just outside of a school's metrics are unaddressed by existing services. Since food insecurity is often a culturally accepted phenomenon in college, students tend not to seek external help and sacrifice their nutritional needs to support other expenses, such as buying textbooks. Partnering with Feeding America and multiple universities, my team and I designed a campus shared kitchen integrated with a food pantry, which addresses users’ needs across their journey from obtaining, cooking to storing food.
As we are able to access many food pantries, we narrowed our problem scope to enhancing the college food pantry experience:
What if food pantries address the entire user journey from obtaining ingredients to cooking, eating and storing food?
What if there is a sense of community among users to reduce stigmatization and invite others to seek external resources?
1. Stakeholder Maps at Northwestern University
2. Stakeholder Map at Harold Washington College
User Testing: The Concept of a Shared Kitchen Integrated with a Food Pantry
We downselected our ideas and the concept of a shared kitchen caught Feeding America's attention. It has the potential to fill the gaps in existing pantry services (insight 1), to provide public access (insight 2), and to build a strong community that reduces stigma around the topic of food insecurity (insight 3). To better understand the desirability, viability, and feasibility to a shared kitchen, we talked to the program manager at MIT Student Life and conducted user testing in existing shared spaces on MIT campus. We learned:
"If there are healthy ingredients, then yes [I will use the kitchen]!" --> How might we provide ingredients for healthy meals?
"I don't like to make food in public. I don't want to make too much noise." --> How might we create a safe and private environment?
"I am not sure because I have food allergies" --> How might we keep the kitchen clean and safe for all?
It costs millions of dollars to implement a fully equipped kitchen --> How might we leverage existing campus kitchenettes?
Legislation and maintenance
Student-run: ran by us, used by us, but rely on an honor code
Staffed by the university: paid employees have the responsibility to stock food and clean space, but it costs money
Staffed by work-study students who are food insecure: create peer-to-peer connection and support students financially
Partner with Local Grocery Stores and Restaurants
I learned to work with a cross-disciplinary team of students from design, business and engineering backgrounds. I learned to facilitate the design process and advocate for users while leveraging other experts to put our boundary in the intersection of desirability, viability, and feasibility.