Harvest Box is a community supported agriculture (CSA) service, that connects both local farmers and SNAP users by better-utilizing leftover and unwanted produce. With Harvest Box, we provide SNAP users with easier access to fresh and healthy produce, generate a solution for local farmers to deal with unwanted leftover food, as well as help Just Harvest reach out to more potential users.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) today is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program, which covers nearly 90% of the qualified population in Pennsylvania. However, there are still around 200,000 qualified individuals not receiving their entitled right.What is more, many SNAP users in the Pittsburgh area reside in food deserts with limited access to fresh produce. How can Just Harvest, a nonprofit organization in Pittsburgh aimed at improving food access, address the food desert issue as well as reach out to more potential SNAP recipients?
Harvest Box is a solution that focuses on expanding the target demographic of community-supported agriculture users to include SNAP recipients and make fresh food accessible. Snap users will be able to access this service through multiple platforms, specifically through a mobile application.
The fresh produce from the local farmers will be packed in a box, and users can purchase the box online and pick it up at a nearby place. By doing so, SNAP users can access fresh fruits and vegetables at a much lower price in a much more convenient way.
Just Harvest will act as a central contact point as well as provide volunteers for delivery. Harvest Box will expand on existing Just Harvest programs and provide further outreach as well.
During our secondary research, we took a thorough look into the current SNAP system and relevant stakeholders, different areas of Just Harvest’s system, and a competitive analysis of different parties that are involved.
Through our first stage of research, we visited local grocery stores, discussed with the store managers, searched extensively online and conducted an in-person interview with Just Harvest Director.
To better understand the problem, we created several maps and models that illustrate complex relationships between many different sets of users. To demonstrate our research process and understanding of Just Harvest's service system, we created a combination of the service blueprint and the user journey map.
To guide users through the pre-application/outreaching stage, Just Harvest designed services around outreaching for more potential candidates and determining their eligibility for SNAP.
The current method of outreaching and their understanding of the candidate’s pool is outdated.
Just Harvest has a vague understanding about the 10% of people who have not been reached nor participated in SNAP.
Currently, Just Harvest provides application assistance that helps applicants quickly identify their eligibility.
Advocating for better data integration with government to simplify application process.
Helping applicants find temporary alternative solutions while waiting for SNAP approval.
In the post-application phase, Just Harvest currently directs their efforts toward initiatives such as “Fresh Corners” and encouraging healthier lifestyle habits, or to policy advocacy.
Lack of healthy lifestyle education and difficulty to provide incentives.
Based on the pain points we discovered, and the opportunities we identified, we brainstormed ideas that could be categorized into four topics:
How might we able to help SNAP users make healthier food purchases and actually help them budget more effectively, leading to a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle as a whole.
How might we create more motivation and incentives such as SNAP credit or grocery store coupons in order to either make healthier food purchases, or refer individuals to Just Harvest to help with their outreach efforts.
How might we leverage community members and different neighborhoods, especially food deserts, to help combat problems related to food insecurity.
How might we reach out to senior citizens who may make up a part of this percentage of the missing population of users who are eligible for SNAP benefits but do not apply.
For each of these four topics, we generated ideas and created storyboards. We then conducted three rounds speed dating sessions with JH staff members, former SNAP recipients, and CMU Pantry visitors. We also did observations at the CMU food pantry and interviewed CMU Pantry volunteers.
Insights we generated from the speed dating sessions and interviews were:
Cultural factors affect people’s diet choices.
Food price and flavor influence people’s willingness to buy.
JH doesn’t want to limit the way that people use SNAP credit.
To promote healthy eating habits, our design should provide incentives to SNAP recipients.
We should consider practical limitations such as costs and funding sources.
It’s hard to compare prices between different local stores.
SNAP users want to know where they spend their money.
SNAP users always want to get affordable food.
We created a model that synthesized important aspects we learned from our interview:
Ultimately though our first research phase, we learned that redesigning the application process is heavily limited by governmental limitations and a lack of funding in regards to what Just Harvest can do as a non-profit organization.
Another important point we learned was that SNAP users struggle with practical considerations like transportation and living in food deserts and while JH works hard to combat these issues through legislation and fighting to implement better laws, we can redesign service innovations to help these users on a smaller scale.
Due to these considerations, our ideation focused on creating a simple way to encourage healthy eating habits and increase access to fresh produce for users who reside in food deserts.
This was when we came up with an idea of a pick-up box service for SNAP users, the “Harvest Box”. The design opportunities we targeted through our design are:
Fresh produce access with SNAP/EBT credit.
A reward system using collectible cards.
Collaboration with a bigger party such as a grocery store or other organization.
The Harvest Box idea at this phase, mainly focused on the partnership between Just Harvest and local supermarket. We hoped that supermarket would be the provider of fresh produce, and will be responsible for the preparation of the boxes. Just Harvest, on the other hand, would take care of branding and marketing of this service, as well as logistics such as delivery and packaging.
We presented this idea to Just Harvest staff, our instructors, and grocery store managers. We also validated our idea by conducting speed dating sessions in the Jubilee Soup Kitchen.
The base idea of a box was received well. However, Just Harvest would have to play a really large logistics role. Supermarket managers also expressed their concerns in budget and revenue. We asked ourselves the following questions:
how will the different parts of the process be handled in terms of funding and manpower? Would it be possible to utilise existing programs and services and expand on them instead of redesigning an entirely new delivery system?
To deal with these questions, we envisioned that Harvest Box would work with a food distributor organization such as 412 Food Rescue to deliver fresh produce. We would be building off existing programs including 412 Food Rescue’s ugly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and Just Harvest’s Fresh Corners program to use a logistics framework that has been proven successful and expand the program to fit our user needs. Current CSA target markets are middle-to-upper class users, and we want to emphasize the community nature of these programs to create SNAP eligible pickup locations in neighborhoods around the city.
To validate our idea, we contacted local farms with existing CSA programs to learn about their user base and how the logistics program of packaging and delivery work.
We spoke with Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance and Blackberry Meadows Farm, and learned that the biggest lack of volunteers, as well as the most time-consuming part of the process, is in delivery rather than packaging. Additionally, farmers were really interested in the principle of our idea in helping Pittsburgh SNAP users and residents to combat food inequality and the issue of food deserts.
We spoke with the coordinator of 412 Food Rescue’s ugly CSA program, in order to learn more about their program and how a partnership with Just Harvest would be most successful.
The pick-up system we proposed at community centers and Fresh Corner locations was positively received, and she suggested that we also add Just Harvest as a central pickup location for users. Space for a partnership would definitely be possible in that Just Harvest could provide users and volunteers for delivery, and 412 Food Rescue is happy to work with Just Harvest in this type of project.
With our idea validified, we drew out the stakeholder map, value flow diagram and the service blueprint of our proposed idea.
Harvest boxes will be provided at Fresh Corner stores and community centers to give easy access with SNAP credits.
To order, users can go to the Harvest Box website/app, select a box size, a pickup location at their convenience, and enter their EBT card info to use SNAP credit. Users will then receive a code for pickup.
Once the order has been placed, Just Harvest will contact a local food distributor to collect the produce from partnered farms. Just Harvest volunteers will then take the boxes from the food distributor and deliver them to lockers in community centers.
Each harvest box contains the fresh produce the customer ordered, a reward card and several recipes. The customer can collect the reward card in exchange for discounts, and follow the recipes to create healthy and delicious dishes.
With our concept validated and appreciated by our clients and other stakeholders, I decided to push forward a mobile application design that facilitates the Harvest Box service based on the following reasons:
Most SNAP users have access to smartphone.
A mobile application makes it easy for users to order and track their boxes.
Just Harvest can embed their services within this application.
Based on the concept of Harvest Box, I created low to mid fidelity prototypes of the Harvest Box mobile application.
From testing the prototype, I learnt that
People want the ordering experience to be simple and easy, not like filling out a form.
People don’t want to be identified as SNAP users by other people while using the app.
People want to learn more about health related information.
People appreciate a clean and tidy visual design.
With these feedback in mind, I created the final design for the Harvest Box Application.
The Harvest Box app provides users with a clear and elegant on boarding experience.
Users are able to see updates regarding their orders as well as tips and recipes that they might be interested in, the moment they opened the app.
Ordering a Harvest Box from the application is a simple process that is smooth and intuitive.
Users are able to collect reward stamps from each purchase. Puting stamps together and they will be rewarded with a free Harvest Box.
Harvest Box app provides users a chance to catch up on health tips as well as new recipes that suits their diet.
Last but not least, if they are ever in trouble related to food, they can always contact Just Harvest for fast and personalized assistance.