A year ago, a group from PepsiCo came to the d.school to see how design thinking might apply to a new social business initiative they had begun to develop called Food for Good. They had already piloted a mobile summer feeding program but wanted to explore other avenues to bring healthy foods to inner city neighborhoods while creating a sustainable source of jobs. Partnering with our Design Thinking Bootcamp class, students took on inner city nutrition as their final design project.
Several student teams developed prototypes around making fresh produce convenient, affordable and viable in inner-city neighborhoods.
This summer, Food for Good built on the insights student teams uncovered in the Bootcamp class.
“One of the biggest benefits of being a Bootcamp partner was learning the design thinking methodology. We’ve subsequently applied the approach to many of our ongoing innovation challenges,” said Matt Smith, Assistant Project Manager with Food for Good. “As soon as we got back from Stanford, we sat down with folks in South Dallas and shared the insights that the Bootcamp students had identified. Then we quickly put together a prototype and began testing.”
The Food for Good team engaged one of the neighborhood’s best-known cooks, hosted an event that included discussions about recipes and ingredients, and then offered kits for sale that included the recipes and fresh produce. “The discussion was really engaging and everyone enjoyed it, but no one wanted to buy the kits! It was a great learning experience; it was clear where we had missed the mark and we turned around a new prototype the next day,” Smith said.
Dozens of iterations later, six franchise-style produce stands are up and running as a test of the model’s viability. One of their key learnings from several rounds of prototypes is evident in how the produce is sold. Rather than pricing fruit and veggies by weight, everything is bundled and sold for $1—for example, 4 apples for $1 or a bunch of greens for $1. “One of the things we learned is that our customers shop with strict budgets and have to make a lot of mental calculations to decide whether they could afford to purchase something. When you sell apples for $1.39 a pound, the customer has no idea how many apples they’re going to get or how much they’ll be charged. But when you bundle them in $1 bags, you offer a clear value proposition,” Smith said.
The produce stand is just one of the ideas Food for Good is developing. Their mobile summer feeding program in Dallas and Chicago offers free breakfasts and lunches to children who are eligible for free meal programs during the school year, but who don’t normally have access to those same free meals during the summer. Nationally, 19 million children receive free or reduced lunch during the school year, but only 2 million of them receive meals during the summer. The problem is mainly a logistical one; meals are easily distributed during the school year, but when students are at home during the summer, many can’t access the free meal program. Partnering with Central Dallas Ministries, PepsiCo used its product distribution expertise to deliver more than 290,000 meals in Dallas this summer. They also piloted the program in Chicago with Catholic Charities, serving more than 30,000 meals. PepsiCo is looking to scale the program further next summer.
“As a team, our goal has always been to learn by doing,” Smith said. “Rather than designing the perfect solution, we wanted to begin making a difference quickly. We had some success with the mobile feeding program but wanted to explore new territories. With design thinking, we’re able to prototype business models faster and more efficiently. It has had a huge impact on our ability to innovate quickly.”