December 22, 2011
From crate to plate: Students study how to improve campus access to fresh local food
Recipes that come boxed with fresh ingredients ready to cook? How about a monthlong incentive program inspiring a commitment to fresh local food? What would it take?
The class was Introduction to Interaction Design, Art 381, and the assignment Tad Hirsch gave his students was straightforward: Design a way to improve access to fresh local food on the UW campus.
“The students looked at how the UW community currently feeds itself,” Hirsch said, “and considered a range of factors that currently make it hard for students, faculty and staff to eat locally.” He said they took an interaction design approach to the problem, asking what experiences they wanted to provide for people. “They then had to come up with concrete proposals to make local food more accessible.”
Its all pretty theoretical for this undergraduate class of mostly juniors, he said. “But we hope to take some of these ideas and make them tangible. Theres the notion that this stuff is meant to go out into the world.”
Hirsch is an assistant professor who came to the UW a couple of months back from Intel Corp. in Oregon. He said he is pleased to be part of the UWs “small but mighty” program in interaction design.
The students were divided into four teams and created videos, physical prototypes, websites and Powerpoint presentations to explain their ideas at the end of the quarter.
Sitting in on the final student presentations was the man theyd have to convince if any of these notions were to be implemented on campus. Micheal Meyering, project and sustainability manager for UW Housing and Food Services, said he was “smiling from ear to ear” as he watched the students explain their presentations.
So, what did the students come up with? Some pretty interesting stuff, actually.
“Crate to Plate”: Students subscribe online to a service that provides, in one stackable box, all the necessary fresh ingredients for cooking a fresh meal for two. Three recipe cards are included with each. This was by students Aaron Calzado, Carly Cahill, Bridget Weis and Miles Koons. “We are faced with UW students not having the ability to purchase local food conveniently and lacking the knowledge of why it is important to purchase local food in general,” they wrote.
“Thirty Day Adventure”: This is a program aimed at on-campus freshmen that, the students wrote, “promotes eating local food in the dorms, exploring Seattle … and learning about the real-world impacts of your food decisions.” Each fall, new students would gather stickers from local food purchases that could win them prizes, and an annotated map of Seattle would steer them to local landmarks as well as fresh food sources. This was the work of students Charissa Lind, Claire Wolf, Jillian Moses and Kim Lewis.
“Simply Grown — Local Made Easy”: This idea involves a Web-based interface where students can connect directly with growers for locally sourced food and anticipates the grocery store that Housing and Food Services plans for its new Alder Hall in 2012 as a place to sell such fresh food. “By taking advantage of (HFSs) existing local grower and supplier relationships and an upcoming grocery store intended to sell fresh local food on campus, our proposed system allows the user to connect directly to growers while maintaining ease of access through an on-campus pick-up site.” This is the work of students Reema Bhagat, Kelly Graham, Shelby Li and Dave Opincarne.
“Fresh Northwest”: This is an online service that uses “delicious photos of locally produced meals” to inspire students to integrate local ingredients into their diets. The team of students, Erin Murphy, Sheema Nezam, Jon Sandler, Ryan Sun and Robin Yoo, said they switched from the idea of bringing fresh local food to campus to “adjusting the perception of local food to the UW community. In doing so, our program would ideally raise awareness of how easy and delicious local ingredients can be.” Users look up where fresh local food is being sold and served, and plan their meals accordingly. Recipe information is included, and each recipe goes into an archive that users can access whenever they like. Participants, the plan states, might compete weekly to have a meal they created in the websites featured spot.
Hirsch said he hopes the projects will continue after the quarter, and several of the students have expressed such an interest. “The next step for me is to sit down with Micheal and see if there might be a way to move things forward into some kind of pilot project or through additional research/design activity,” he said.
Meyering, of HFS, said theyre all good ideas with good intentions. Could they work? Entirely possible one day, he said, if done by a professional who knows how to market them and make them workable for the campus.
“It was great to see students so engaged in sustainable food systems,” he said.