The research and design for this project was exhibited in the Snite Museum of Art at University of Notre Dame (above).
In the United States one in seven Americans rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families. This comprises of more than 46 million people annually, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors. In Indiana food insecurity exists in every county in the state with 1 in 7 residents in the state considered food insecure. The hunger rate for children is much higher at 20 percent or more. 7 in 10 Indiana children are eligible for some sort of nutrition assistance program, which still leaves approximately 30% of families who make too much to qualify for such programs, but still have issues with food access. In Indiana, 1 in 6 residents use food pantries and meal service programs to help them get by. The Food Bank of Northern Indiana works to alleviate hunger in St. Joseph and surrounding counties by providing a food pantry for area residents and distributing food to other food pantries in St. Joseph and surrounding counties. I used the food pantry at the Food Bank of Northern Indiana in South Bend, IN as a primary case study for thinking about design in food pantry settings.
Many people who rely on food pantries have diet related health issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Food items coming into food pantries are often limited and change frequently. Current food donations to pantries frequently include highly processed canned items, and nearly expired food from grocery stores such as chips, cakes, pastries and other items with high sugar and salt content. This project shows the research and design solution that 1) Give food pantry shoppers the tools to make healthy meals out of food pantry options, and 2) Encourage healthier, fresher food donations to food pantries through a donation campaign to support the success of the first goal. To support healthy meal planning for clients of food pantries I designed a system that includes: providing food pantry shoppers flexible, nutritious, recipes that are simple to cook and understand, signage to call out and navigate shoppers to healthier food items within the pantry store, and tools for pantry workers to change and share recipes quickly to accommodate for food available in the food pantry space.