Designing for social impact: Encouraging children to have a healthier relationship with food

Let’s start with some brutal truths.

Did you know that in 1 in 10 children aged 4–5, and 1 in 5 children aged 10–11 are classified as ‘obese’ in the UK in 2017 according to this NHS report? These figures are predicted to rise.

Did you know that only 1% of packed lunches meet basic dietary requirements?

Did you know that obesity is the leading cause of Type 2 diabetes in children? In 2017, more than 600 teenagers are treated for Type 2 diabetes in England and Wales.

How might we solve this obesity epidemic?

“How might we encourage children to have a better relationship with food?”

“How might we encourage children to eat a balanced meal at a young age?”

“How might we encourage children to carry their good eating habits into their adult lives?”

In summer of 2018, Rachel Liu and I were we were invited by UX Scotland and UX Cambridge to present our Service Design workshop to the attendees. I was also invited by Design Thinking London to run a similar workshop. In these settings, our workshop reached over 50 attendees and generated over 10 service ideas to help children eat better and reduce the rising obesity rates.

We wanted the workshop to encourage large-scale thinking — thinking about our holistic approach to solving problems and not zooming in on the details alone.

We wanted the workshop to encourage people from different walks of lives to have a play and debate big ideas that form a part of their lives.

We wanted the attendees to design responsibly for the next generation.

More importantly, we wanted the attendees to take what they learnt from the workshop and start making changes to how they eat, and encourage their workplace to start thinking about different ways to solving a problem.

Photos from UX Scotland & Design Thinking London

Our service design workshop

The format

Our workshop had 3 key parts:

  1. Discovery evidence: We provided all attendees with what we called a ‘discovery evidence pack’. This is a pack of information on academic and health reports, newspaper articles, campaigns and emerging technologies relating to Type 2 diabetes. The attendees worked with the pack to get background on the topic, generated and grouped insights together.
  2. Problem statements and ideation: With the knowledge and insights, the attendees were then asked to generate as many problem statements as possible, using the ‘How might we…’ format, before choosing one that they would focus on for the remainder of the workshop. We then spent time generating ideas around the chosen problem statement- this was to help the attendees break down their problem statement into solvable parts..
  3. Creating a service: A good portion of our workshop was spent on developing the idea into a full service and letting the attendees map out the ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ stages of the service for what the major actor will see and not see in using the service. The best way to illustrate this is to think about a gig and what you see (line of visibility) and what you don’t see (line of invisibility; see image below).
Source: Practical Service Design

Problem statements- How might we…?

We had a variety of problem statements that various groups from different workshops had picked as an area to generate ideas from. Some of them include:

  • How might we make a healthier packed lunch that is easy, quick and fun?
  • How might we make healthy food more appealing for lower income families?
  • How might we make healthy food ‘cool’?
  • How might we encourage schools to support children to eat healthier?
Examples of ‘How might we…’ statements

Ideas generated

Here is a flavour (pun intended!) of the service ideas generated from the different workshops:

  • Creating new (cartoon) characters that promote eating vegetables, and not junk food
  • Reward program for grandparents to eat healthier with children
  • Collecting points as you shop for healthy food in supermarkets
  • Showing the nutritional value of what you purchased on receipts
  • Healthy school lunch boxes that are easy to pack or heat up at schools
  • Helping government to introduce a healthy food levy
Example outputs from one of our workshops

What’s next

I’m interested in facilitating the workshop and/or sharing what we learnt with others who are looking at improving children’s health and diet, such as food policy or other-related design groups.

If you or know someone who would be interested in having me run a similar workshop or hear about the learnings, please do get in touch.

Workshops feedback


I founded Melon Experience Design to help clients gain better research insights from their users and make a social impact, get in touch if you would like to work with us.