Problem, Knowledge and Assumptions, Research Planning, Interviews
Team members: Andy Yeh, Ivy Huang, Susie Benes, Doaa Jamal
The HCD Vancouver team is a non-profit group based in Vancouver, BC. We are a group of individuals that seeks to solve social challenges through human-centered design thinking. We meet about 1–2 times a week, 2–4 hours each time, and do this because — well, because it isn’t work and this is fun.
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 know 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 heathy 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.
People in need can’t cook because they don’t have a kitchen.
Do people in need have access to resources to learn about and cook healthy food?
People generally know how to cook their own meals.
Can people in need cook proper meals for themselves?
Organic food doesn’t make that much of a difference.
Are there rankings of food categories for certain nutritions?
Do people know the advantages to eating healthy?
Eating home-cooked meals is healthier than eating out.
Are restaurants/food providers offering healthy food choices clearly?
If someone lacks funds they will choose cheap food over healthier options.
People buy food in bulk to save money.
Meat is an expensive protein source.
Unhealthy options are cheaper.
Local produce is generally more expensive than from foreign countries.
How much do people in need spend on food/What do they buy?
Eating unhealthy food just leads to getting fat.
People in general want to live healthy rather than unhealthy, hence choosing better food options.
People choose eating out/fast food because it’s easier.
Eating healthy is for losing weight.
Are healthy food options generally accessible to people? Where do they go to find them?
Why do people want to eat healthy? Do they even want to?
A. Learn from People — In-person Interviews
We conducted 5 interviews in total, all of which were done at a local and central coffee shop to facilitate a casual conversation that would lead to honest answers.
3 participants were scheduled through communication via e-mail, and were selected after a pool of participants were gathered through an online screener survey. We wanted to get to know our users, specifically students living independently, and has a student loan. We wanted to learn about their diets, eating habits, food knowledge, preferences, and any other areas that shape what they eat currently.
2 participants were interviewed after the scheduled interviews were done for the day. They sat near us, studying for their upcoming MCAT exams. I politely approached them and asked if they were interested in helping us with our interviews for a social design challenge, and they agreed! The guerrilla testing went surprisingly well. Even though they were medical students with a much higher level of knowledge in healthy food diets, were financially stable, and lived at home with family some of the times, they represented an extreme user group that gave us insight on the path they took and what components of the environment allowed them to be very mindful of what they eat.
As a part of the interview, we ran a small card sorting exercise to see how our users ranked what factors they think that challenge them from eating healthy choices everyday.
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 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.
B. Learn from Experts
Determinants of eating behaviour in university students: a qualitative study using focus group…
College or university is a critical period regarding unhealthy changes in eating behaviours in students. Therefore, the…
This expert study and secondary research 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.
C. 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.
VCC had a small market inside the school right next to the cafeteria and offered a small variety of pastry, raw meats, and other snack options. We found this to be a great option for students who were living in close proximity to the school or those that don’t live close to a grocery or market. This was also a great groceries option for those on a budget nearby.
Students and staff dining at the cafeteria mostly sat in the main area if they bought food from the cafeteria. Those that packed their own lunches dined in another room connected to the main area because there were microwaves in the room. We found that 20% more people bought their lunches at the cafeteria.
There were also 3 vending machine inside the cafeteria. We found that healthy options were not readily available for purchase inside these machines. High prices for these less healthy options seem to act as a deterrent, but the lack of healthy options displayed was a concern.
D. Seek Analogous Inspiration
It wasn’t an easy task to find a similar situation compared to making conscious food choices every day. The closest task I think would be making the choice of what we wear every day. 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. If it looks muggy out there, we might put on a hoodie or bring an umbrella.
When we go on a short or extended trip, there are many factors that we take into consideration when packing our clothes. Most of us might consider the different activities, occasions, weather, duration, emergency wear, and physical appearance. Never do we go on a trip without packing any extra clothes. So, why do we not prepare our meals when we go out for 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?