Learn from nature and redesign a better food system

  • Problem: in Baltimore, one in four residents live in a food desert, lacking physical, economic, and cultural access to healthy food. This is the result of decades of segregation, white flight and disinvestment in neighborhoods. Current urban renewal projects prioritize attracting new residents over addressing the needs of current residents in less affluent communities within East and West Baltimore. While these communities often lack supermarkets, they are home to many of the city’s 435 corner stores.
  • Approach: we take an earth centered design approach - the combination of human centered design and biomimicry - to analyze problems, find inspirations and develop strategies.
  • Research: academic research and reading, workshop with Baltimore food system experts and biologists, visiting corner stores.

How might we bring fresh healthy food that people desire to these communities in need?

Then we asked nature for inspirations, how might we bring fresh healthy food that people desire to these communities in need?

  • Biological Inspirations:

  1. The Type 3 functional response curve illustrates how predators adapt to a new type of prey: consumption is slow at low densities (when prey is first introduced) but then increases with increased prey density.

  2. Optimal foraging theory models how animals make decisions about what to eat. They consider how much energy will be spent on the process of acquiring the food compared to how much energy will be gained from eating it, also factoring in time spent. When choosing between different prey options an animal will choose the more pro table option (or sometimes multiple, depending on time constraints). If prey is found in a microhabitat, a constrained area or ecosystem that is distinctly different from it’s surrounding environment, it can help to reinforce a the search image of a new prey.

  3. Attraction & Pollination: Bees are attracted to flowers. They come to collect nectar and pollen is dusted on their legs in the process, facilitating cross-pollination for the flower.

  • Intervention: Get Fresh (our submission is selected as winner of 2016 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge in the open category)

The value proposition that Get fresh offers is threefold:

1. Human-centered and it meets both biological and social principles

The current food structure is not supporting those principles. Baltimore City invests lots of money on programs such as “Healthy Stores” and “Healthy Eating” that teach people in food desert areas to buy fresh food ingredients and prepare their own meals. However, people who need these programs are not necessary people who have time to cook. People’s burden and frustration are often overlooked in the current system. In contrast, Get Fresh caters the right things to the right people at the right places - introducing freshly prepared meals to people in need at corner stores. This user-centered shift is where our value comes from.

Get Fresh wants to bring fresh healthy food that people desire to communities in need. Get fresh respects people’s natural learning processes. Based on our biological inspirations, we realized that successful education happens when individual behavior and preference are considered. We envision Get Fresh’s model encouraging a more healthy diet and helping to lay the foundation for happier and healthier communities.

2. Get Fresh is financially viable

It brings more financial values to the existing business model. Corner stores typically rely on small margin profits of products such as soda and chips. Prepared food might have a shorter shelf life but a higher pro t margin than the current pro table merchandise. As long as there is demand, which our proposal is also addressing, Get Fresh’s model is surely more valuable in the long run.

3. Get Fresh has the potential to be a social enterprise that creates social impact

We picture Get Fresh playing an important role to lead a systematic food transformation. In this transformative model, there are four stakeholders in the food industry involved in our food production process - farmers, food preparing workers, corner store owners and individual customers. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in February 2016, the unemployment rate 8.1% in Baltimore city is much higher compared to 5.8% in the nation. Some of neighborhoods in West and East Baltimore are experiencing rates as high as 20%. Get Fresh will source excess produce from local farmers and train local residents in the culinary skills necessary to produce the Get Fresh menu at scale. In the future, the more people Get Fresh serves with healthy, affordable, fresh meals, the more impact it generates.