This project was a final assignment for a disruptive design class at the MFA Design for Social Innovation program at SVA. We were required to research the access to food for homeless senior citizens in New York City. We had to identify a design opportunity to develop a prototype for an intervention that would address the problem at a systematic level.

AGENCY

Disruptive Design, School of Visual Arts

ROLE

Group project

LOCATION

New York City, NY

The Problem

Based on NYC council committee reports, a little over 200,000 New Yorkers age 65 and older are living below the poverty level, and a significant fraction of that population is homeless. The miseries of homelessness are exacerbated for these people, especially with respect to their access to food, with most of them experiencing  an increased number of barriers to 3 hot meals a day. This often leads to hunger and malnutrition, which are especially dangerous for their age due to decreased resistance to ailments and heightened possibilities of degenerative diseases. Despite an increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment in the last 3 years, most of these seniors are unsure of their eligibility for the same, or are unaware of it.

Our Methodologies

INTERVIEWS

Gave us valuable qualitative data about stakeholder perspectives through interviews and observations.

WEEK 6

PROTOTYPE

Made us test our assumptions and build upon our existing understanding.

ORTHODOXIES

Made us turn stereotypes and assumptions into opportunities for intervention.

WEEK 10

THEORY OF CHANGE

Theory of Change that would help them decide on the most effective leverage point in the system to design an intervention, which would ultimately lead to the desired outcome through a systemic change.

ACTIVITY LIFE CYCLE

Helped us understand the different avenues through which homeless seniors obtain food.

WEEK 1

PROBLEM STATEMENT

Project Plan, Scoping of our problem, Statement, Defining our users

EMPATHY MAP

Aided in creating our own personas of the different stakeholders.

WEEK 5

PARTICIPATORY ACTIVITIES

Homeless seniors drew their life journey for us to make us understand what got them to the point of homelessness.

WEEK 7

CLUSTERING

Helped us generate themes and see pattens and come to a few feasible solutions.

WEEK 9

CONCEPTUAL MAPPING

Supported us in mapping out user journeys and identifying barriers to food access.

Insights & Pain points

Food pantries imposed limits on availability and time slots, and homeless seniors were not able to travel to multiple pantries to increase their access to food. They had limited mobility due to age, and no access to the subway due to poverty. 

INSIGHT 1

Most of the homeless seniors had limited dietary choices, not just due to allergies and dental problems, but due to cultural restrictions too. Thus, they  could not eat just any food that was made accessible.

INSIGHT 2

Provisions of raw materials for meals were useless due to the lack of resources for cooking.

INSIGHT 3

Being isolated from communities and loneliness robbed them of opportunities to socialize, have support systems and make better choices.

INSIGHT 3

Recommendations

Quick Wins

A pocket-sized, weatherproof map for the homeless individuals that includes names and locations of all the food pantries, soup kitchens, etc. in New York City and other relevant information such as their times and dates of availability. 

Leftovers Cafe

Getting some restaurants to open to homeless seniors after their closing times, and serve them the day’s extra food. This would not only provide food options, but would also possibly create dining communities that connect over food. A system of pick-up buses that recover extra food from restaurants and carts, and transport them to various locations in the city, which homeless seniors with limited mobility can access.

Systemic Transformations

A long-term systemic transformation which focuses on permanent housing, proper healthcare and access to three hot meals a day for homeless seniors. 

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