Jenny Mikesell
Artist, Teacher, UX Strategist and Researcher

Since COVID, 1.3 million people have lost their jobs in Los Angeles County.
This created a brand new vulnerable population.

In 2020, 500,000 Angelinos newly became food insecure.
Food pantries in the area are experiencing unprecedented demand.
The demand for food assistance has almost doubled.

Food Oasis - "Yelp for Free Food"
Project Overview

I came to this project in August 2019. I wanted to connect a map-based interactive resource to my Shoe String Student App.

Over the course of my two-year commitment, there were over 50 volunteers on the project including four different project managers. The Tech Lead, John Darragh, and I were the only two constants committed to this project. 

There were countless setbacks and numerous hurdles that we overcame with our tireless determination.

I began my journey into researching the food rescue ecosystem in Los Angeles. I wanted to understand why food insecurity what such a difficult problem to solve and how it was currently being solved.

MetricsIn 2015, food insecurity affected 29.2% of Los Angeles County households with incomes less than 300% FPL, or 561,000 households†; very low food security impacted 11.3% of households, or 217,000 households (Table 1 ).

Metrics

In 2015, food insecurity affected 29.2% of Los Angeles County households with incomes less than 300% FPL, or 561,000 households†; very low food security impacted 11.3% of households, or 217,000 households (Table 1 ).

My role: Product Owner, Lead UX Researcher, Subject Matter Expert

My team was part of the non-profit Hack for LA which is a division within Code for America.

Questions that I asked:

  • Why does this problem exist?

  • What is the landscape of this problem?

  • What tool do we create that will have the most impact?

  • If we help food organizations, will that be effective?

  • If this website is for individuals, how much information can we present? 

Food Oasis - UX Researcher, Strategist, and Product Owner

I began the secondary research - Why does hunger exist?

I started with a working hypothesis — The high percentage of food-insecure people in Los Angeles is due to distribution logistics.

MYTHS:

#1 We do not produce enough food.
#2 Food is wasted because of neglect.
#3 There is minimal effort to recover food.
#4 The government isn’t paying attention.
#5 Food distribution problems are the only reason there is food insecurity.

After many interviews with stakeholders in the food rescue industry in Los Angeles, I created a diagram of the food rescue ecosystem and decided on a user.In this Illustration, I am decided to represent the organizations in three categories, DONORS, OUTLETS, and CONNECTORS. Each organization has a unique role is the process but their roles also overlap. I narrowed our scope to the individual user who is seeking a food pantry or meal program. I coined this person as a

After many interviews with stakeholders in the food rescue industry in Los Angeles, I created a diagram of the food rescue ecosystem and decided on a user.

In this Illustration, I am decided to represent the organizations in three categories, DONORS, OUTLETS, and CONNECTORS. Each organization has a unique role is the process but their roles also overlap. I narrowed our scope to the individual user who is seeking a food pantry or meal program. I coined this person as a "food seeker".

User’s JourneyI lead the team on a mission to learn about the user. We broke up into three teams. Each team mapped out the steps and decisions an individual user would take. This was an exercise of empathy. It also brought the Dev and Design Team working together.

User’s Journey

I lead the team on a mission to learn about the user. We broke up into three teams. Each team mapped out the steps and decisions an individual user would take. This was an exercise of empathy. It also brought the Dev and Design Team working together.

Competitive AnalysisThe Dev and Design team both looked at the competitors. All of the websites published very old data, they were difficult to use, and not usually mobile-friendly. 

Competitive Analysis

The Dev and Design team both looked at the competitors. All of the websites published very old data, they were difficult to use, and not usually mobile-friendly

How do we keep this data updated?Bad data is worse for users than zero data.How could we build in a solution to keep the data updated? This is a problem all across Social Services. How can our team help?We decided to get the community involved to volunteer and make calls.

How do we keep this data updated?

Bad data is worse for users than zero data.

How could we build in a solution to keep the data updated? This is a problem all across Social Services. How can our team help?

We decided to get the community involved to volunteer and make calls.

I designed a training program for volunteers to validate the data. We created a basic backend admin site for the database.I worked with our Tech Lead to create a volunteer dashboard and an admin dashboard. Our goal was for Volunteers to be able to create their own accounts and log in during training. The admin could then assign them organizations to call and verify the information.Training and onboarding needed to achieve these goals:1. Introduce volunteers to food inequity and food insecurity.2. Introduce them to Food Oasis and why their help is so important.3. Step-by-step training on how to use the volunteer dashboard and contact organizations.4. Keep the volunteers returning.

I designed a training program for volunteers to validate the data.
We created a basic backend admin site for the database.

I worked with our Tech Lead to create a volunteer dashboard and an admin dashboard. Our goal was for Volunteers to be able to create their own accounts and log in during training. The admin could then assign them organizations to call and verify the information.

Training and onboarding needed to achieve these goals:
1. Introduce volunteers to food inequity and food insecurity.
2. Introduce them to Food Oasis and why their help is so important.
3. Step-by-step training on how to use the volunteer dashboard and contact organizations.
4. Keep the volunteers returning.

Food Oasis - UX Researcher, Strategist, and Product Owner

I conducted user interviews and redesigned the site based on their feedback.

We launched our MVP site in June 2020.

Our database had over 1,000 listings of pantries and meals.

I interviewed 5 users via Zoom. I focused my questions on the usability on mobile and desktop.

Our biggest take away was that due to COVID, pantry lines were about 6 hours long. This meant that knowing detailed information about what food type pantries offer was extremely important for users.

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Analyze Customer Performance

SEO Analysis - Screaming Frog

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Website performance analysis

Googchekcer

Creating a design system.

Creating a design system.

Redesigning the admin dashboard after several user interviews with admin volunteers.A simplified dashboard and more streamlined work flow increased our volunteer retention by 45%.

Redesigning the admin dashboard after several user interviews with admin volunteers.

A simplified dashboard and more streamlined work flow increased our volunteer retention by 45%.

I designed a slide deck for fundraising -- data supported information.

I designed a slide deck for fundraising -- data supported information.

I redesigned the logo to allow for other cities to use the Food Oasis branding.

I redesigned the logo to allow for other cities to use the Food Oasis branding.