Community Table – a Service that Fights Against Hunger

Team: Emily Blunt, David Lin, Rippen Liu, Sijia Wang, Allana Wooley

Client: Just Harvest

Role: User Research, Service Blueprint Design, Experiential Prototyping

Research Method: Experiential Prototype and User Testing, Field Studies, Secondary Research, Interviews, Heuristic Analysis

Duration: 6 weeks


Community Table is a service concept we offered to Just Harvest (a NGO working against hunger) to solve the food insecure problem in Pittsburgh. The concept proposes Just Harvest to run community-embedded potlucks that allow support networks to grow where they are needed most. Food insecure individuals could find support and Just Harvest would gain insight into community needs.

The Background and the Challenge

Just Harvest is dedicated to meeting the modern day challenges of addressing hunger and poverty in Pittsburgh area through advocacy, policy work and providing essential services to food insecure individuals.

We created a illustration to showed the current experience of how the food insecure individuals get access to the food:

When Just Harvest first visited us they presented two primary goals:

1. Identify people who are eligible for SNAP but don’t use it or don’t know they can.

2. Discover and develop new solutions to interact with people and improve their experience with SNAP benefits.

Process Overview

The team first conducted user research to collect data and generate insights. We then ideated and ran multiple speed dating sessions to validate the ideas. We finally created an experiential prototype for user testing and concept finalization. Here is a brief overview of the overall process:

User Research and Key Insights

In the user research phase, we started with stakeholder map and mind map to understand the stakeholder relationship and the related research topics. We then conducted service benchmarking to understand the service models of other NGOs in the food insecurity field. To understand the SNAP experience, we did a heuristic analysis of the current SNAP digital platform to understand the challenge of the digital experience.

the stakeholder map visualizes the key relationships for Just Harvest and the food insecure people

Based on the stakeholder map and the initial research, we interviewed 3 food insecure people on site (at the SNAP office), 3 Just Harvest employees, 1 DHS employee, 2 operators from other NGOs, and 2 potential partners to understand the problem.

The interview helped us create a service blueprint of Just Harvest’s current service model. The blueprint identifies the current challenges (broken parts) and places to intervene.

the service blueprint shows a typical customer journey and the broken parts of the current service, PC: David Lin, Sijia Wang

We summarized our key learnings into seven major findings:

We then created three How Might We statements based on the findings to help the ideation phase:

1. How might we support those individuals who don’t qualify for SNAP but are still looking for support in accessing adequate food resources?

2. How might we aid current SNAP recipients in locating missing documents or keeping track of documents for renewals?

3. How might we help current SNAP recipients determine if they still need SNAP and understand and keep track of the reapplication timelines and requirements?

Ideation and Iteration

We first created 9 ideas based on three How Might We statements, and conducted speed dating sessions with 7 key stakeholders (Just Harvest Employees and current and potential SNAP users) to help us prioritize the focus problem and statement.

SNAP Office, one of the speed dating locations (Left). Speed dating sample material (Right).

Based on the speed dating result, we mapped the 9 ideas in a matrix that evaluate the impact and the ease of implementation. We then mapped the related How Might We statement in the same matrix to identify the focus for our final solution.

We finally decided to focus on solving:

How might we support those individuals who don’t qualify for SNAP but are still looking for support in accessing adequate food resources?

which by solving it could have a high impact for Just Harvest, and the food insecure. In addition, the potential final solution is likely to be easy for implementation.

Final Concept and Experiential Prototype

Based on the key findings from the user research phase and the focus How Might We statement, we find building effective connections in between the food insecure and Just Harvest, and Just Harvest and potential partners could help solve the challenges.

visulization of the value generated from effective connection among the three key stakeholders

The final idea we came up with is Community Table, a community potluck event that will invite food insecure individuals (especially those who are not qualified for SNAP) to gather around, enjoy the free food, and get connected to Just Harvest staff.

overview of the final concept, PC: David Lin, Sijia Wang

We created a service blueprint of the Community Table, and ran an experiential prototype with 10 participants to iterate the service design and finalize the service blueprint.

experiential prototypes with 10 participants where we focus on testing the core parts of the service

The finalized blueprint indicates the resources and materials Just Harvest need to execute to help them easily implement the idea. We also provided them with sample flyers for marketing, volunteer books for recruiting event volunteer, convo cards for discussion, and a full contact list of the potential partners.

finalized service blueprint

sample volunteer packs, marketing flyers, discussion cards

Feedbacks and Potential Impact

We received encouraging feedbacks from the participants:

“Food is such a great way to share information and bring people together.”

This is such a positive team-building experience, and we’re really lacking that right now. This gives a lot of room to know what happens in a community.”

“It was interesting how deep we got so fast not having met each other before.”

Just Harvest is working on implementing our final concept. To understand the potential impact, we created a detailed value flow chart to illustrate the value of Community Table for key stakeholders.

PC: Emily Blunt

We finally identified four potential outcomes of Community Table.

1. Increase community outreach for Just Harvest. Help Just Harvest collect information about what is happening on the ground throughout Allegheny County and identify desired services.

2. Better allocation of food resources to people who are food insecure. Partner with food advocacy NGOs to provide food and healthy meal, with instructions on how to recreate it at home.

3. Grow support networks. Connecting food insecure individuals to each other, to services like Just Harvest, and to sympathetic volunteers to create networks of encouragement and understanding.

4. Empower community leaders. Just Harvest provides support and training for community members to build positive environments and experiences that can strengthen ties and relationships.