bles - Research

Despite the city's economic rebound, many Pittsburghers are being left behind. How can we empower a stronger food network to ensure full and healthy communities in Pittsburgh?


Sebastian Guerrero, Bo Kim, Lois Kim, Emily Su


Interviews, Contextual Inquiry, Competitive Analysis, Affinity Diagram, Journey map, Persona, Survey


7 weeks in 2017

Project for the course User-centered Research and Evaluation instructed by Professor Jenna Date

Although food is a human right, many Pittsburgers still suffer from food insecurity without convenient accesss to fresh produce. How might we resolve this need to create a hunger-free Pittsburgh? How do organizations in Pittsburgh work together to alleviate this need?

Deep hanging out

In order to quickly immerse ourselves into the problem space, we conducted contextual inquiries and expert interviews with a mix of big and small organizations to learn about the current struggles that these organizations face. We also met with clients who have experiences with using the food pantry.

During the visit, we conducted an activity using the people map, to understand the interviewee's day-to-day experiences related to food. I visited CHS Oakland Community Food Pantry, met with the distribution manager at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, met clients at Project SILK, and visited Jubilee Kitchen.


Contextual Inquiry

CHS Oakland Community Food Pantry

Community Kitchen

Two clients who are served - Project SILK


Expert Interview

Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank

Jubilee Kitchen

Squirrel Hill Food Pantry

Analyzing the process

Based on the data collected from our visits, we created personas to represent the key stakeholders. In addition, we created a journey map for each of our personas to better understand how individuals feel and their painpoints at each step of the process.

After reviewing our journey maps, we discovered that organizations lack resources, especially time, money, and manpower. Organizations struggled in finding people pick up food donations and raising awareness, money, and advocacy from the community.

Key findings

Using all the collected data, we created an affinity diagram to organize them into natural relationships and identify any recurring themes. Three overarching insights emerged.


Education helps normalize food instability and empowers them to combat it.

"There's a thought that healthy food is only for people who have money. But if you know how to cook, you can really get around some of that."


These organizations solve a short term need, with the larger mission to empower long-term sustainability for its clients

"Food pantries are just a band-aid"


There’s an opportunity for organizations to have rich and open communication with each other.

"Through that network of organizations we can really come up with some bigger solutions."

Envisioning Opportunities

Based on the insights we've gathered, we came up with two possible opportunities to explore. We invited members of nonprofit organizations in Pittsburgh, including those who participated in our research and gave a presentation on the insights and possibilities we came up with.

How might we create a space for organizations to share resources?

How might we engage the customers to take part in resolving food insecurity?

Next steps

If we had another month...

I would love to initate a visit to the monthly meeting that Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank holds with its member agencies. It will allow us to understand how the meeting is held and the process of communication between these organizations. Also, although we received a contact from 412 Food Rescue, we were unable to conduct an interview or a contextual inquiry with them due to the limited time frame.

Special thanks to

CHS Oakland Community Food Pantry, Community Kitchen, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Jubilee Kitchen, Squirrel Hill Food Pantry, Project SILK.

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