community engagement

Melting Pot

A Social Learning Service of Healthful Eating Changes for low-income communities.

Product Type
Service Design
my role
​I conducted 6 in-person interviews, 2 contextual inquiries and moderated 1 community cooking event to iterate design prototypes. Also, I took charge of creating paper prototype and high-fidelity prototype for deliverables.
Olivia Ouyang, Ivy Lin, Veena Panicker
Design challenge

Improve Household Nutrition Knowledge in Detroit Suburbs

In Detroit suburbs, improving household nutrition knowledge is a location-sensitive challenge. Due to transportation limit, education level and budget concerns, nutrition knowledge of households is defined by affordable food options in neighborhood stores. Even with healthy eating intentions, it is hard to adopt changes from online recipe resources without knowing how to incorporate food alternatives with neighborhood resources.

Healthy food options in liquor stores and grocery stores have huge difference.
Healthy food options in liquor stores and grocery stores have huge difference.
Solution overview

A Social Learning Service of Healthful Eating Changes

To help the community center extend the learning benefits outside the program, we designed a social learning service for that facilitates peer learning of healthful eating practice in the form of weekly home cooking challenges.

Service Diagram of Melting Pot
Service Diagram of Melting Pot
1. Members receive text messages from community center of calling for participation

2.  Participants upload a photo of their family dish to complete the challenge

3. Practical experience exchange between members

4. Define the community needs and adjusted nutrition suggestions by voting among members and facilitators

5. Members adopt practical eating changes while facilitators adjust challenge content for the next round

Explore & Define Design Space

Literature Review

Before diving into the field, we reviewed previous studies regarding health interventions implemented in low-income communities and discovered 3 key findings.
Finding1: technologies for low-income communitiesFinding2: community-based designFinding3: positive deviance

Understand The User Needs

Next, we conducted field research to better understand our users and nutrition learning resources in Detroit suburbs.
We reached out to Brilliant Detroit, a non-profit organization supporting families in suburban neighborhoods and conducted research at their southwest site. After 4 in-person interviews with parents of young kids and 2 phone interviews with program directors, we had these major findings.
I summarized our findings with 2 member personas and 1 community facilitator persona.
Key insights for our design opportunities:
• Take advantage of the nutrition program currently offered by Brilliant Detroit
• Help Brilliant Detroit get constant feedback would benefit members by optimizing class offering

Neighborhood Resource Research

To further explore the neighborhood resource of southwest Detroit, we looked up nutrition learning resource regarding what to eat and how to cook.
online recipes are informative but not practical with available grocer while local produce programs fail to benefit residents outside the walkable distance.

Key insights for our design opportunities:
• Gaps between recipe ingredients and available grocer options hinder members from learning from online recipes
• Local produce programs might not benefit households out of the walkable distance

Field Research

To understand the nutrition literacy level of members in BD, we attended 1 community cooking class instructed by nutrition expert from Detroit Food Academy. Later I brought our recipe prototype to the dumpling session I instructed using myPlate nutrition model suggested by USDA.
dumpling recipe prototype
Dumpling Recipe Prototype
Teaching members portioning with dumpling stuffing
Teaching Portioning with Stuffing

According to members' feedbacks, we found that:
• Members prefer hands-on learning with constant feedback
• MyPlate model is too advanced and impractical for members
• Members constantly exchanged their own cooking experience in class
Prototype & iteration

Work Towards Sustainability

Idea Sketching

To synthesize our research findings, I sketched 8 solutions to focus on nutrition literacy, parent-kid engagement and produce access respectively.

8 idea solution sketches including nutrition recognition game, digital cookbooks, parent-kid cooking class, etc.

Low-fidelity Prototype

After prioritizing the user needs, we decided to focus on nutrition literacy. Thus, we came up with our initial prototype aimed at improving nutrition literacy and educating parents on healthy diet with a model based on MyPlate system.

Community Nutrition Knowledge Competition
Community Nutrition Knowledge Competition
Parent Quiz Question on Tablet
Parent's Quiz Example on Tablet
Kid's Interactive Food Plate Game on Tablet
Kid's Interactive Food Plate Game on Tablet

Testing with Users

We tested the initial prototype with two parents at BD and the feedback from them completely changed our design direction.
• we assume kids and parents have essential knowledge about different categories of food yet many of them do not.
• Forming new eating habits will be very difficult without practices and reinforcements even if the nutrition knowledge and the MyPlate model are considered easy to learn.

Design detail

Community-centered Social Sharing

Individual Text-based Engagement

When staying outside the community center, individuals engage with the virtual community by text messages.
Sign up a challenge
Opt-in cooking instructions
Submission reminder
Weekly learning report

Community Knowledge Aggregation

• Showcase submissions to public display in community center
• Voting for a dish to learn the recipe
next step

System Evaluation

Evaluation matrix of the system consists of quantitative numbers such as the total number of participants, total submissions of food pictures, total visitors of the community center along with qualitative feedback from members. However, due to time constraints, we were unable to implement and test it at the community center.Instead, we conducted an expert interview with Cindy Eggleton, Co-founder and CEO of BrilliantDetroit, and got the following feedback on our prototype:

“I can see the system as great add-ons to our existing curriculum. I know that people all want to expand their experience out of the class and this is a way of doing it... It provides an easy way for people to start changing their behaviors, provide a way to document on that and help them stay on track, it also follows learning models so I can imagine how it would work for people...”

Future Design

• Better define weekly challenges with the help of a nutritionist or co-design them with members to meet their needs.
• Add more considerations on progress tracking and behavior reinforcement and kids can be great incentives for parents to change their behaviors.