A mobile app that lowers the barrier to food donation by making it possible from the convenience of the home.

Organization: University of Washington MHCI+D Program
Khai Nguyen, Oliver Engel, Sayena Majlesein
Duration: 1 Week — Immersion Studio Course

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During the first week of Immersion Studio, we were given the challenge to explore one of the key facets of HCI: computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), to find ways of using technology to help people cooperate in acts of civic engagement.


Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain

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In order to decide who our users will be, and to what end, we were given ten minutes to come up with a mix of ten possible activities, goals, or target users to address the challenge. At the end of ten minutes, we explored more than three hundred ideas by categorizing them into similar concepts.

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Aiming for a desirable, viable, and feasible product that is relevant, usable, and pleasant to use, we narrowed down our possible problem space to food donation among individuals in a community.

Formative Research

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Secondary research

In order to define our problem space, we needed to explore CSCW issues and practices to gain a better understanding of its values, purposes, and goals.
We read more than thirty published papers and articles related to the impact of food waste on communities, countries, economy, and health. Moreover, we studied donation behaviors to better understand our target user.

Competitive analysis

We also conducted market research to define the most impactful competitors.
We narrowed down our competitors to the Buy Nothing Project and Foodsharing and we investigated their strengths, weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that have been derived from them.

In order to better understand and define the requirements, we also looked at existing food banks and food sharing communities.


From our formative research, we gathered the following insights:

  • People often donate out of convenience, not necessarily to do good.
  • Household food waste isn’t subject to social pressure.
  • Most household food waste is avoidable.
  • People will donate more if there is a visible outcome.


If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution. — Steve Jobs

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Problem Setting

According to a 2012 report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the average American household throws away $2,200 of food each year, which means Americans throw away $165 billion of food each year. Therefore, we decided to address the critical problem of food waste by exploring ways to encourage individuals in a community to regularly donate food to food banks.

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Therefore, we started to ideate and prototype to address the following challenge:

How might we encourage regular donation to food banks among individuals in a community?

Ideate and prototype

Success Belongs to Those Who Believe in the Power of Their Ideas. — Michael Irwin

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We used braiding as our ideation method.

In this method,

  • we spend two minutes on sketching individually
  • then we discuss each concept with the team for one minute

Through ten iterations, we came up with more than thirty concepts.

Then we started a brainstorming session to narrow down these concepts to four main design concepts.

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Design concepts

  • Truck pickup app
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  • Restaurant leftover finder
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  • Food map
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  • Food locker
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Critique session

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To receive useful and effective feedback, we started conducting an informal critique session. The purpose of this activity was to provide the opportunity for all teams to share their ideas and concepts with other teams.
As a result, we discussed our concepts with other teams and received their feedback.

Down-selection criteria

The critique session enabled us to look at our challenge from different perspectives to better understand how others perceive each of these concept.

As a result, while we originally found the concept of Food lockers an innovative and effective solution to address our challenge, we discovered that the concept of Truck Pickup app and the convenience that it provides for individuals makes it a more desirable and feasible concept.

Therefore, we decided to focus on the concept of Truck pickup app and we defined the following down-selection criteria:

  • Focus on making the donation process easy
  • Take advantage of existing workflows
  • Avoid legislative issues
  • Temporarily overlook the viability of individual home pick-ups


First, to answer the question of whether the donation action is easy to complete or not, we created our first prototype using Sketch and InVision.

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We tested the prototype to make sure that the user flow is easy to follow.

Then we used a paper prototype to see if a reward system is necessary for this concept.

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We tested this prototype and found out that participants don’t look for a reward when they are donating and they just want to see more heart into the app.

“I want to see more heart in the app…It’s a donation, I don’t need a reward.”

This feedback led us to change the tone and some features of the app. To test these changes, we created our last paper prototype using Sketch.

When we made sure that the user flow is easy to follow and the concept makes sense to our target user, we started designing a high fidelity prototype as the final response to this challenge.

Deliver — Final response

Don’t deliver a product, deliver an experience. — Josh Loe

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A mobile app that lowers the barrier to food donation by making it possible from the convenience of the home.


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For individual donors

  • Convenient donations from home
  • Flexible pick-up schedule
  • Reduce amount of food waste

For food banks

  • Track incoming donations
  • Increase the number of people regularly donating food

How it works

Carepack provides you with the information needed to make a food donation. It gives you donation tips, enables you to follow donations in your community, and allows you to find the food banks by distance.

It easily enables you to donate food by scanning or entering the items, scheduling a pickup time, and defining a pickup place. As soon as you make the donation, a truck will be notified to pickup the donation and deliver it to the nearest food bank.

Our goal is to facilitate the process of food donation by bridging households to the food banks.

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Takeaways and next steps

Through this short intense experience, we understood that

  • Language and context are crucial in prototype testing
    We used three different prototypes to answer each of our questions. That enabled us to realize the importance of language and context in prototype testing. We were able to see how participants were confused when the context was not sufficient or when we provided them with more context than needed.
  • Choose prototyping tools wisely and be open to changing them
    As a team, we learned that it is essential for a designer to be open to change not only tools, but also his/her perspective. Our effective collaboration was due to the fact that we could change our approach very fast and we were willing to try and test new ideas.

Our plan for the future is to develop features for the food bank portion of the app, and also consider the product’s viability.

We also would like to work on more innovative concepts such as a smart box that works like an app and scans items as soon as you put them in the box.


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