• Son Luu

Benevo | A Food Waste Fighting App

Updated: Oct 2, 2019


Having come from a background with experience in the restaurant and food service industry, my project partner - Anna Gudnason and I were both aware of the copious amounts of food thrown away daily. Having also volunteered at food serving events, and helping to pack meals at food banks, we found that volunteering on an individual basis without an organized group or event, can be a difficult task.

The idea of a platform that connects those with excess food to those in need through untapped volunteer resource, inspired us to explore creative solutions to take part in eliminating food waste in our community in New York City. Even though it is an ongoing project and still in the early phases, both of us are proud to start contributing what we can to make a positive impact, beginning with our local community in fighting the problem of food waste.

Benevo | came from "bénévole" ["volunteer" in French] and "benevolent" ["well meaning and kindly, serving a charitable purpose" - Webster] - connects volunteers 🙋🏻‍♂️, food banks 👨🏻‍🍳and local grocery stores 👩🏼‍🌾. It is a communication platform, a help request & offer matching tool that allows individual volunteers to get in touch with local stores to help taking food donations to food banks in need, in a timely manner.

My role in this project includes: research, problem analysis, design, prototyping

Problem Statement

The Big Problem:

New York City currently produces 1.5 million tons of food waste per year, yet roughly 16% of New York residents experience food insecurity.

Globally, 1.3 billion tons of food is thrown out every year, accounting for a third of all food that we grow.

While a few food banks receive donations, 34% of pantries and kitchens in the New York City are forced to turn people away, reduce portion sizes or limit hours because they are unable to keep up with the pace of need. Yet there is plenty of food to feed those in need. This isn’t an issue of scarcity, but a lack of organization in resources.

Solving the problem of food waste can not only help those who are food insecure, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste has a huge carbon footprint accounting to 3.3 billion tons of carbon equivalent. Solving this problem would kill two birds with one stone.

What we can and want to solve:

The questions arise: how can we turn food waste from garbage into a resource? In addition, how can those of us who care about the issue and want to help eliminate food waste volunteer?

Design Challenge

" How can we design a simple and user-friendly platform that helps address the untapped resource of volunteers who want to help, but aren’t always sure how? "

" How can we connect a network of food banks, volunteers and local grocery stores together, with an aim to re-allocate excess resources to those that need it? "

Ideation | Research


*Understanding stakeholders

We identified three primary stakeholders who we think, are key to the design development process. We need to have a better understanding of their needs and associated pain points.

As part of the pre-design research, we have conducted some initial interviews with a few individuals who represent each group of stakeholders.

*Findings from research

As part of our findings, we arrived at three primary pain points:

Solution Approach 🛠

*Designing a communication platform that:

  • connects / matches communities of individual volunteers with local food banks and grocery stores in a timely manner when help is in demand

  • provides more centralized center of information regarding volunteer opportunities for those interested in helping and those who need help

  • creates a more effective and efficient communication among these entities

  • allows a more effective volunteer / help request scheduling tool for key stakeholders

*Design Goals:

Solution Prototype

*Ideating on user flow:

To quickly get an idea of the big picture around the entire process from when a need for food donation is established to where food donation is offered, then matched with a delivery volunteer, until donation reaches food bank locations, we started with a hypothetical step-by-step of what the overall process would potentially look like, putting ourselves in the shoe of volunteers, and trying to determine what we would be doing at various stages of the process, what would we see throughout different channels of communication, how would we be guided through the process of finding volunteer opportunities, accepting the request for help, and going out to help, etc.

We wished we could conduct more interviews with more food bank and local store managers to hear directly from them the different scenarios, and stories they may experience. However, during the time of project development, several representatives we wanted to meet with were not available. But, we plan to schedule more time with these stakeholders for more detailed conversations.

Then, from the overall user flow, we attempted to develop lists of what we think are key components within each of the stakeholders' user interface (UI).

Task Analysis

Key UI Components by Stakeholders

*Building paper-prototype:

As we developed a better idea of what make up key UI components, we wanted to quickly come up with a paper, low-fidelity wireframe of potential main contents within each of the above key components of the application. With a content wireframe developed, we can show to potential users and see how each group of stakeholders would walk through the pages of these contents themselves.

*User validation: 📝

We came across some great questions and many important concerns that will need to be addressed after user validation session. From the discussion, some of the main points include:

  • "Ease of use is crucial"

  • "I am interested in volunteering in their own time, but wondering about option to create a volunteer group with my close friends."

  • "What if there was too much food for an individual person to pick up?"

  • "Process should be hassle-free in terms of providing volunteers clear, detailed instructions of pick-up and drop-off arrangements."

  • "What about last-minute changes?"

  • "I want an easy way to contact my local store and the food bank location, something more 'mobile' for a delivery guy."

  • "How would the platform change or work in different environments, different neighborhoods, communities?"

A lot of the questions had to do with actual operation and workflow of the volunteers' delivery activity, rather than the page contents as intended. That was very understandable, since the idea of such volunteer connection platform is not widely popular or has not been very successful around our community in the recent years. As a result, it was reasonable for users to have doubts as well as questions regarding the overall workflow and potential unexpected scenarios of interaction. Every concern raised needs to be taken into consideration during next stages of design development.

Many of these operation related issues will: (1) significantly impact future user interface design & interaction design, and (2) further require user research and user tests among local food banks and grocery stores, as all of these stakeholder will be very interested in an effective design of interaction. In response to that, our team plan to continue to conduct more interviews and research with our users in the near future.

It's Not a Class Assignment. Why Don't We Take a Break!

Yes! Let's take a moment and look back. It's been two weeks...

What do I think about our project in general?

  1. The idea: 💡is interesting in the pure fact that it feels good and inspiring to get started on a journey of potentially making a positive impact on human community. Nowadays, an idea is usually valued by its potential return on investment, how it's going to make money. Even if the project is not for profit, there are basic needs of an operation that depend on financial support, if not from profit making, from other sources of sponsorship support. Understanding that reality and still being inspired to put our time and effort on Benevo, I feel motivated. We want to take this time when we are being developed at NYU to learn as much as we can, taking on projects inspired by our passions and positive impacts.

  2. Lesson about our User Feedback: 📚we are taught again and again to gain understanding about our users. As interactive design students, we strongly believe in human-centered designs and outcomes. However, it is not so easy to determine what feedback to look for, what responses we should be listening to and taking into consideration. I've learned to start, not only looking for feedback that affirms what most people think, but also trying to reach other responses that sound unlike any other response, feedback that may just seem quite the opposite to what most would give you. I think maybe, and just maybe that's when we've just tapped into actual user insights, which may or may not change everything about the design and could give it a unique and fresh approach before we are so sure about knowing our users.

  3. The right amount: of everything simply feels great. It's like eating delicious food 🍰. The second we eat too much of it, all the yummy taste, all that feeling of satisfaction, all of a sudden go away. Having the right amount, the right balance may not be everyone's goal for different purposes. It is subject to personal taste as well. For Benevo, I'm still exploring what would be "enough." As of now, for being a semi-fresh idea project, I'm hoping we'll give it the right amount of design without being too much to where it might just take away its meanings, the end goals or the main purposes of what we're trying to achieve. It's still in early stages, but I believe keeping this in mind will help us focus on that sweet spot area in the middle in designing Benevo while making sure it accomplishes what it is set out to do.

High Fidelity Prototype

☝🏻Below prototypes are executed in Adobe XD

🏠 Home Page UI Option

Homepage of a website should allow users to have access to the most basic information, such as: its main purpose and inspiration, options to read more about its background, and how to start becoming a member. We want to catch users' attentions with a few key pieces of information and focus on what is interesting about the product that would invite users to consider exploring further... without overwhelming them with busy text and visual graphic.

To achieve that, I chose to contrast darker background with brighter colors of important content while giving the website enough wide empty space without much graphic for ease of users' eyes.

Color theme: Except for the homepage where a darker background is used for specific purposes, including highlighting the most relevant and key overview details about the digital product, I chose light and bright colors to be the primary theme for all UI solutions, such as: yellow, white, pink, or light blue, and green to give the product a more energetic, happy, fun vibe, yet also a sense of kindness and compassion.

🙋🏻‍♀️ Volunteer Account UI Options

Based on the key UI elements determined for a typical Volunteer's account, I want to simplify the menu board as much as possible. As a volunteer, one would not want and should not have to go through a complex web portal to sign up for volunteer opportunities.

The menu bar should only include what are the most important options associated with a Volunteer's account, such as: volunteer schedule, and new volunteer jobs.

In the example below, the Volunteer Calendar clearly shows 2 types of pick-up request that a volunteer would typically receive: either a recurring or a one-off/emergency request. Then, to get more information regarding a particular job, user would click on a particular request for more details.

Once the user clicks on the pick-up request in the Volunteer Calendar, more specific details will display on the page.

👴🏻 Store Manager UI Option

This next UI option is an example for a Store Manager's account.

One of the most popular task for the Store Manager is posting a pick-up request and ask for volunteers.

Again, simple and basic, this UI option provides standard inquiries for a scheduling a delivery.

As also shown on the menu bar, New Donation Request is where user sees new requests for food donations from food bank entities. Here, user can choose to confirm availability or unavailability of resources. I am considering giving users an option to respond to food banks with an expected timeline of donation availability if none is available at the moment.

🙋🏼‍♂️ Mobile Version for Volunteers

A mobile version would be very useful for a Volunteer when he or she gets ready for a delivery.

Benefits to users with this UI option:

- summary of all deliveries for a specific day

- pick and choose which job to do first

- look up on map for trip direction

- have all delivery notes in one place

- trip details are separated by what step the Volunteer is in the process. Right below the menu bar, the application shows what step in the process the user is currently executing. To simplify this, we show 3 steps: Pick up, Drop off, and Finish when done with all the trips.

- confirmation signature for delivery and drop-off can also be requested on the same page, before moving on to the next. This helps make sure he/she completes every task required in the process.

Design development is ongoing. Please wait for updates