We attempt to utilize technology by creating a prototype platform to reduce food waste by connecting those with excess to those in need through the use of volunteers.
Having come from a background in the restaurant and food service industry, my project partner, Son Luu and I, were both aware of the copious amounts of food thrown away daily. Having also volunteered at multiple food banks and kitchens, we were also aware of the dire need for more volunteers and food donations. The idea of connecting these two problems together to create a win win solution appealed to us. We sought to find a way to solve the problem of food waste by making a platform that would connect those with excess food to those in need through untapped volunteers.
Benevo | comes from "bénévole" ["volunteer" in French] and "benevolent" ["well meaning and kindly, serving a charitable purpose" - Webster] - connects volunteers , food banks and local grocery stores. It is a communication platform, a help request & offer matching tool that allows individual volunteers to get in touch with local stores to help take food donations to food banks in need, in a timely manner.
My Roles: Market Research, Rapid Prototyping, Strategy, UX Design.
New York City currently produces 1.5 million tons of food waste per year, yet roughly 16% of New York residents experience food insecurity.
What is considered waste for some, may be a meal for others and the question arises, how can we turn food waste from garbage into a resource?
Globally, we throw out 1.3 billion tons of food a year, accounting for a third of all food that we grow. Solving the problem of food waste can not only help those who are food insecure, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste has a huge carbon footprint accounting to 3.3 billion tons of carbon equivalent. Solving this problem would kill two birds with one stone.
While a few food banks receive donations, 34% of pantries and kitchens in the New York City are forced to turn people away, reduce portion sizes or limit hours because they are unable to keep up with the pace of need. This isn’t an issue of scarcity, but a lack of organization in the re-allocation of resources.
How do we design a simple, easy to use platform that utilizes volunteer resources in order to successfully re-allocate excess food to those who are food insecure?
Our aim is to design a simple and efficient way to re-allocate excess resources to those that need it. Furthermore, we attempt to address the untapped resource of volunteers who want to help, but aren’t always sure how. Our solution is to improve communication between those that want to help and those in need of help through simple and efficient design.
Based on the challenge at hand, we identified four key design goals to implement on the platform that were aimed at tackling the identified problems.
We conducted a preliminary round of interviews amongst the stakeholders that would utilize our platform in order to address key pain points and problems we had to address. We divided key stakeholders into three separate categories defined below. Categorized into each category are the key questions we aim to answer in our interviews.
* Interviews and research is still ongoing!
Through our research, we found several problems and pain points:
While there have been attempts and bills proposed by the New York City Council, these bills have yet to be implemented and are still in nascent stages. Services and attempts that have been implemented, are difficult to navigate and fail to directly connect those with excess food and those that are in need of food.
Overall the biggest pain point appeared to be a lack of efficient organization to utilize available resources.
Ideation & User Flow:
We ideated our ideas and designed an approach on the whiteboard to figure out what would successfully solve identified pain points.
Our approach is to tackle the lack of organization by efficiently utilizing available resources. We aim to provide a one on one direct link between those with excess food waste and those in need of food by utilizing untapped volunteer resources. Non-profit organizations and food shelters are always short of labor and are not aware of all available resources at hand. Our solution is to tap into volunteer resources to provide additional help in order to successfully connect excess food to those in need.
Identify key pain points and implement an appropriate design.
Re-designing current flow into a new simple approach:
Prototyping User Flow:
First we identified key user actions that would need to take place and the intersection of the three user groups in order to create a first phase prototype.
We identified the overall process and then broke this down into individual step by step actions by each user.
Our most important goal was ease of use and simplicity, so we needed to understand our three user groups in detail.
Questions we considered in our User Flow Process:
1. What are the current pain points for each user?
a. How could we solve this pain point in a way that would also reduce the other user's pain points?
2. How do we reduce each user's actions into the simplest way with the least amount of barrier?
3. What are each user's biggest worries and how can we use design to ease those concerns?
Once overall actions were identified, we sought to figure out a simple user flow broken down into individual user actions:
This was a rough design aimed at creating a initial prototype we could take out and test amongst each user group to get important feedback and concerns. With the feedback we receive, we will be able to adjust our design and implement accordingly.
Building A Paper Prototype:
We used key UI components of each user to develop a paper prototype of the initial design flow. We wanted to share this amongst each user group to receive feedback about their likes, dislikes and concerns.
User Testing Feedback
Volunteer User Testing:
We received some important and very useful feedback from user testing our volunteer group. Their main issue of concern was confusion surrounding arrangements in pick-up and drop-off of food donations. Another was not being able to pick-up all donated food and needing help. While they were very open to being able to volunteer on their own time, ease of use and simplicity was extremely important to them. Suggestions centered around being able to coordinate with other volunteers, which would solve the fear of not having enough hands to pick-up all food donations.
"Ease of use is crucial to me as a volunteer."
Current Key Takeaways:
1. Ease of use is extremely important!
2. Option to create volunteer group with close friends (adding social element).
3. Process should be "hassle-free" in terms of providing volunteers with clear, detailed instructions on pick-up and drop-off arrangements.
4. How would the platform change/work in different environments (New York City versus Los Angeles)?
5. Providing credibility and accountability - past history of food donations or volunteering.
** Please check back soon- research & interviews are currently ongoing! **