How might we provide healthier food options for people in need?
In this project, HCD Vancouver took on a challenge to provide healthier food options for people in need. Using Human-Centered Design principles and processes, we took a problem we identified, came up with alternative solutions, and prototyped a potential solution in 8 weeks. Below is a summarization of each step of the process we took to reach the end of the initial prototype. To read the complete breakdown and details of the project, you can read my full Medium page.
In Vancouver, BC, the general population is no stranger to the idea of healthy eating. Education on the benefits of healthy eating has created communities aiming to provide healthy living choices like food options, activities, and supplements. However, my HCD Vancouver team wants to take on the challenge to improve the lives of those in need by causing an impact on their choice of food and accessibility to healthier food options.
So, how might we provide healthier food options for people in need?
Team Knowledge & Assumptions
Discussing what we already knew about this topic, whether they are facts or assumptions, helped us considered more about the different aspects of the topic. It also helped us ask questions to those assumptions we made like, “Why are unhealthy food options cheaper than healthy ones?”, when the assumption is that healthy food options are more expensive.
The design challenge is to devise solutions for people in need. We had an interesting discussion on who those might be. We also had to take into account the scope of this design challenge due to the limited resources we had. By focusing on a realistic target user group and its problems, we can complete this design challenge more efficiently and possibly set the framework for tackling similar, but bigger problems for another user group.
Target user group selected: College students Reason: Many college students don’t have the luxury of living on campus, and commute, budget, and infrastructure are big factors that can affect a college student’s choice to eat healthier food options. By solving this design challenge for this group, we can help them set better eating habits and food knowledge early on in their lives and make an impact on their health in the long-run.
Research & Planning workshop
Learn from People: In-person Interviews
We conducted 5 interviews in total, 3 scheduled and 2 guerilla testing participants. All interviews were done at a local and central coffee shop to facilitate a casual conversation that would lead to honest answers. The 2 guerrilla testing participants represented an extreme group as a result. As a part of the interview, we ran a small card sorting exercise to observe their thought process when ranking challenge factors that contributed to eating healthy choices every day.
All three scheduled interview participants ended up living at home with the family of a distant relative. This wasn’t what we intended for our targeted interviews. How might we go back and change our screener survey so that people understand the question better? We think that the question wasn’t clear enough as “family” can mean different things to certain people. Some people consider “family” as immediate family members, and for our purpose, we wanted people who don’t live with someone that prepares their meals.
To adjust to this condition, we asked all the participants if they had a plan for eating arrangements when they eventually start to live independently. Most participants did not have a plan or never thought about it.
Learn from Experts
This expert study was a secondary research that gave us very good paths and directions to take in order to ask the right questions in our interviews. Although this study does not provide solutions to unhealthy changes in student eating behaviours during the academic years, it allowed us to learn the possible determinants that are potential design challenges that we can design solutions for.
Immerse Yourself in Context
We conducted a field study where we visited Vancouver Community College during lunch hours to see what available food options existed and student eating behaviours.
Seek Analogous Inspiration
We consciously make that decision in the morning or before we go out by observing the weather or predicting what the weather might end up to be throughout the day.
Accessibility, convenience, and cost are all factors that we consider. We also might not have all the information we need to make that decision initially. So, how might we ensure that we have all the information we need when we make the decision of what to eat, much like all the information that we need in order to to decide what to wear for the day?
03. Planning Using Synthesis
We grouped our learnings into categories that made it visually easier to digest the information. These themes included meal preparation, food I like, perception of self, perception of healthy eating, eating vs studying, family, job, healthy eating reasons, challenges, food selection.
Insights and How Might We's
Here we compiled all the information in each theme and formed one statement as a result of the reoccurring information. Generating “How Might We” questions helped guide us to think about each statement in relation to our design problem. By identifying those questions that resonate closely with the design problem, we can then think about solutions that answer those specific questions.
How might we educate and encourage students to form healthier food habits?
How might we enable students to locate affordable and different food varieties easily?
How might we enable cost-conscious students to make healthier food choices when facing a choice between healthy and unhealthy food?
Idea #1: Educational and Hands-On Meal Prep Program Score: 43 (Excited — 15, Innovative — 8, Practical — 20)
Idea #2: Mobile App for Student Meal Prep Ideas and Nutrition Facts Score: 42 (Excited — 13, Innovative — 11, Practical — 18)
Idea #3: On-Campus Stationary Bike & Reward Program Score: 53 (Excited — 20, Innovative — 19, Practical — 14)
Our Pick: Idea #3, On-Campus Stationary Bike & Reward Program
We picked this idea because it was a solution that answered the most HMW questions and it is closely relevant to our original problem statement. It also gained the most interest from the team. We believe that allowing students to earn healthy snacks by exercising could help students develop a healthy snacking diet and learn about nutrition at the same time. We believe that students that live on campus should all have equal access to easy and healthy snacking options, regardless of financial status. We don’t want to give students in need any special treatments. We want to give them the opportunity to study, live, and succeed like anybody else.
During this phase, we wanted to pinpoint the most important aspect throughout the user journey and address the most crucial questions that can potentially hinder the success of the idea. We mapped out the user journey from the initial awareness of the product to the end of the interaction with the product. We then addressed potential questions that focus on the viability from the user’s perspective in each step. We want to lower the barrier to entry and therefore, increase the likelihood that our primary users will be able to use the product effortlessly.
Our initial prototype involved a lot of discussions, crafts, and laughing. Due to time restraints from the scope of this project, and resource restraints, we had to make the prototype as fast as we can. It depicts the user, Dave, noticing the bike, logging in, using the bike, and claiming his reward.
For any product or service design, there needs to be a level of consideration for the business and operational side of things. For GoSnack Cycling to realize it’s true, physical form, it’ll need the staff, partnerships, and funding.
We’ll need the expertise from bike service technicians, person to stock the vending machines, and hardware and software engineers for the vending machine and stationary bike systems.
We’ll look to partner with colleges/universities as one of the major supporters and space providers. We’ll try to source the stationary bikes from local gyms that would like to fund the program and in return, offer them the advertising space on the stationary bike. Local snack, fruit, or other food companies with a healthy image would be potential food option providers, and again, this would be an advertising platform for them as well. For the technological part, we would like the school to be involved and get its students as a Capstone project to materialize GoSnack Cycling.
Most students are not eating healthy, and it’s not their fault. Some students don’t have much money, some don’t have the knowledge, and some are new to the country. These students in need find themselves snacking more often during exam times, but not on healthy choices. This leads to a few implications including low studying efficiency, unhealthy long-term diets, and other bio-psychological effects. GoSnack Cycling is a student program that lets students use stationary bikes during exam times to earn rewards in the form of healthy snacks. Rewards are given based on the mileage total and contain educational facts. GoSnack Cycling needs your support for development and supplies, and your students need GoSnack Cycling for the opportunity to study, live and succeed like everyone else.
Learning and Reflections
I had an amazing experience completing this design challenge. I met with wonderful people locally and the effort we put in as a team was really rewarding. This challenge has taught me to explore solutions with an open mind and to take a methodical approach when encountering roadblocks. Design thinking is thinking in a different perspective, but human-centered design thinking is thinking in a different human perspective, which are mainly the primary users and beneficiaries of the design solution.
In the short 2 months span, we’ve accomplished so much and learned the value of team work, in which we’d never be able to on our own. If we had more time for this challenge and possess more resources, I believe we could really make a difference in our community and perhaps even communities abroad.
I especially got a lot of value from practicing with HMW questions, as this helped me organize my thoughts and make sense of their relevancy to the design challenge and user needs. The online user survey and in-person interviews were also very interesting and really was a refreshing take on gaining different perspectives.
The HCD Vancouver team is a non-profit group based in Vancouver, BC. We are a group of individuals that seek to solve social challenges through human-centered design thinking. We meet about 1–2 times a week, 2–4 hours each time. This project looks at the design thinking process and initial prototype for the challenge “how might we provide healthier food options for people in need?”
Research planning (primary and secondary research, field research), Themes Identification, Insights and How Might We Questions, Prototyping, Implementation Plan
July 16, 2018
Typeform, paper prototyping, card sorting, time management, workshop facilitation