Essential Foils Community Non-Profit Team #4
Food insecurity is extremely prevalent in Indianapolis. Around 20% of Hoosiers living in Indy live below the poverty line, meaning they have limited access to the food needed to sustain themselves. Unemployment rates in Central Indiana have skyrocketed due to COVID-19, causing many more Circle City residents to struggle to put food on the table. Additionally, food and monetary donations from grocery stores, farms, supporters, etc. have rapidly declined. To make matters worse, many older volunteers have stopped volunteering because of the dangers of COVID-19. This perfect storm has left food pantries lacking food, money, and volunteers at the same time that the COVID-19 pandemic has driven up unemployment numbers. To help food banks meet the needs of their increasing customer base, we developed a website that would allow individuals to donate money, food or volunteer services to food banks that were in need, allow those food banks to request the food/support/money they need, and allow the food bank customers to easily discover the food available near them. Our product will help alleviate some of the serious shortages that food banks have been facing due to COVID-19; from food to monetary donations, to general support, as well as allow those in need to combat the food insecurity they face on a daily basis.
Estefany Landaverde- Project Manager: A junior Informatics major at Indianapolis University of Purdue University. Responsible for keeping track of team progress, communicating with upper management, and ensuring completion of the product. Worked with the plans for the final presentation and the front-end side of the web application.
Alice Lawson: A senior Marketing student at Bradley University- concentration in Social Media Marketing and minor in Business Analytics. Worked with customer research and segmentation, business plan development, logo design, and plans for the final presentation.
Alexander Parial: A senior in Honors Electrical Engineering at Purdue University with a minor in mathematics. Supported the development of the web app by focusing on the integration of the Google Distance Matrix API to find the nearest foodbanks to a user.
Kwaku Sarpong: A junior French major at Wabash College, with minors in Political Science and Chemistry. Conducted research on the customer base and worked on the business model and the final presentation.
Andrew Stafford: A junior Computer Science major at Ball State University with a minor in Computer Technology. Supported web application development by focusing on the integration of a Datastore database to store and display information on different food banks and the resources they have and/or need.
How did you decide on this customer segment, problem, and solution?
Our initial assignment was to work with nonprofits, but we decided to narrow our focus to food banks. There are many different types of nonprofits in Indianapolis who are facing their own unique sets of problems due to COVID-19. Trying to find a solution in 5 weeks that would meet even one need that satisfied all of these nonprofits was not feasible. By narrowing the nonprofit sector down to food banks, we were able to more easily identify a problem and solution. Additionally, members of our team had previous experience with food banks, meaning that we had some background experience and connections that would be helpful in developing our product. Our research began very generally, but we were able to quickly choose a focus. We found a significant amount of information regarding food insecurity in Indianapolis and felt that it was an important problem for us to be a part of the solution. Some of our most used research is as follows:
We felt that a web application was the best solution for our project because it is easily accessible by food banks, customers, and supporters alike. Additionally, our team members had more experience with web applications compared to mobile, so developing a web app felt like the best course of action for our project. We quickly realized that, even in a more specific market, there are many different types of individuals involved in the food-centric nonprofit world. Therefore, we had to determine who exactly we wanted our product to work for. Through our research, we found 3 main groups that we believed our product could serve best: food banks, their customers, and their supporters. This report will continue to discuss these 3 groups and how we intend to solve this problem for them.
How did your team build and iterate on the solution?
The team began with having a broad view of an issue we wanted to tackle. We began researching the topic of food banks and began to narrow down the solution towards what product we could develop that would help with the issue at hand.
Quickly on we started to build a low fidelity prototype using adobe XD to collect data with user testing in order to have a good understanding of what the start and end of our product would be. Originally, we thought that we would have authentication for all users that come across the website, but thought that it would be too much work to implement separately for regular users and food bank companies who wanted to input information into the website. We used a web application because most of the team was familiar with this type of platform.
We decided to continue with the idea to implement a google matrix API in order to find the closest food banks for each user. Another implementation is the database to store the food bank information that they have for each one on the website. We built on that idea and emphasized the importance of the information given by the fand banks in order to help with the issue of COVID-19.
Marketing 5 social media interactions 4 Surveys 10 email signups
Product & Customer Discovery 4 user tests 3 interviews conducted 4 survey responses no revenue made
Technical Details and Diagrams
Key Tools, Libraries, and Frameworks
Google App Engine Google App Engine and they're built-in Cloud Shell, is what we used to connect all the Python and HTML code and deploy it out to a web application. We used this because it allowed us as first-time web app builders to focus on our code and not the web service portions needed to have our web app available publicly.
Google Datastore We used Google's database option to store information on what food banks had in store so we could later display this in our service, as well as what items banks were low on. We used Datastore because it was very versatile being noSQL and it was more secure and faster to connect to it as we were coding within Google App Engine already.
Google Distance Matrix API We used the Google Distance Matrix API to calculate travel distance and time between a user input address and the foodbanks in Indianapolis in order to direct the user towards the closest ones.
Flask We used Flask, a micro web framework, to build out the web application within python. We used this because it was a simple but elegant solution to the web app framework, perfect for a small prototype application. Flask is the framework that renders our HTML templates, handles our page redirects, and handles the connection between the Python back-end and the HTML front-end.
Adobe XD Used for low fidelity prototyping in order to conduct user testing. We used this because it is a great tool to begin User Design.
If you had another 5 weeks to work on this, what would you do next?
Though we made many phone calls, we received responses from very few people. If we had 5 more weeks, we would seek more feedback from people who worked in the food bank industry, both the food bank itself as well as its volunteers/supporters, and potentially its customers. Because this industry is highly publicized, and we were familiar with it, we were able to develop our project in spite of the fact that we received a limited amount of input from the food bank industry. However, we recognize the importance of more first-hand accounts and would like to involve more industry professionals in our future endeavors. Whether it be expanding into new markets, beginning new marketing campaigns, or further developing our product; our future plans center around gaining more supporters so that we can help more customers that are in need.
Our other future plans are as follows:
Expand further into Indiana Focus on larger markets like Hamilton County, Bloomington, West Lafayette, Fort Wayne.
Expand into other markets Focus on cities like Austin, Columbus, Seattle, Denver, Washington DC, Nashville, Portland, Louisville, Milwaukee. These areas are large enough to undergo customer research and gain a significant customer base but are not too large that they are unrealistic for us to work with.
Increase our customer base Food Banks: Market via social media, email/newsletters, and potential outreach in food bank publications or online communities Encourage word of mouth through potential subscription/incentive model Customers: QR codes and flyers present at all affiliated locations will make our product easily accessible by those that need it Live tutorials (or video/transcriptions to accommodate social distancing requirements) instructing customers on how to use our product, since many may be unfamiliar with the web application space Supporters: Market significantly via social media, where supporters are present. Social media campaigns will encourage supporters to be more involved in our company and greatly increase our reach. Weekly email newsletters updating supporters on what they have been able to assist us with, will encourage continued support. The potential subscription model/incentive model in the future will increase this further.
Develop a mobile application Most consumers are more likely to actively contribute if on a mobile app vs the website. Further, develop applications to be very accessible. Filter Food Banks by the availability of a certain item.
Optimize Script Clean up code to make it more readable and add comments so that readers understand processes Make code more pythonic to minimize runtime
Checklist of Completed Items