FoodPodge Mobile Game:
Making Free Food Cool


Design a mobile phone app that improves the experience of a specific audience when it comes to food collection and distribution. The main focus of the app should be to address food insecurity.


My team found in our research that food insecurity on college campuses is often silent and faceless. Because there is shame and stigma around the topic, typical social networks cannot offer much help.


FoodPodge is a gamified experience that incentivizes finding free food, and providing free food. With FoodPodge, we hope to combat issues of stigma head-on through redistribution of pricing and raising awareness.
People with more income are encouraged to shop at places/businesses that fight food insecurity to continue to help students.
Students who are insecure with food are encouraged to go directly to those places/businesses to get free/discounted food.
FoodPodge also provides cooking lessons and ingredient deliveries to address time sensitivity, making the process of getting food fun, engaging, and sustainable.


2 Week Design Sprint

My Main Role

User Research, UI Design, Project Management


Di Xu
Christian Enriquez
Tom Ralter


Adobe XD, Miro


Adobe Creative Jam: Design For Change With SoDA Agencies


The final submission to the Creative Jam is the following prototype.

0. The Problem: shame and silence about food insecurity

Through secondary research, field observations, and one-on-one interviews at the location of a food drive at Santa Monica College (SMC), we summarized the result and created a summary of insights.

Field Observations

A long line for cars for pick up. There is a separate line for people who walk up. People in cars seem more aloof to us than those in the standing line.
The food provided by SMC food drive includes some items with long shelf life, and some fresh foods including vegetables, bread, milk and eggs. The choice is limited. It's more of a "grab-bag".

Field Observations - Summary

Long wait time
Many people benefit from free food that they don't mind waiting in lines for them.
Grab bags of foods
The food is of a good variety, but there is little choice.

Secondary Research

For collaboration, we dropped summary and useful information from an overview of literature on the topic of food insecurity in a Miro board, and presented them to each other as we went.

Summary of secondary research. A screenshot from the Miro that we used.

Secondary Research - Summary

Low Awareness
People don't understand what food insecurity is and don't recognize that they are not food secure. Not want to take something other people might need more.
Feeling of Shame
So much shame around this topic people feel awkward talking about it and value privacy over getting food.
Tipping Points
"One bad day" leads to a student quickly falling down the cracks, and not being able to manage.

User Interviews

Our team interviewed 5 random people waiting in line at the Santa Monica College Food Drive event, which is a recurrent food drive that happens every Wednesday since April 2020 and was ongoing at the time when we conducted the interviews in September of 2020.

Interview Script

What jobs do you currently hold? What is your commute like coming to this food Drive?

How did you find out about this food drive SMC is currently having?

What is your experience so far with this food drive? Why?

How do you feel it could be improved? Why?

What challenges have been the most difficult for you when it comes to the process of obtaining your next meal? Why?

Interview Notes

User Interviews - Summary

Multiple channels of communication are needed
For students to be aware of the Food drive, multiple channels of communication are needed. Most of the people we interviewed found out about the food drive through instagram or email. However, other students who missed these channels of communication would not be able to find out about the food drive.
Transportation is the biggest barrier to entry
Students come from all over LA. The commute to the food drive is from 10 minutes to an hour of commute.
Good experience = Good quality, fresh food
People who frequent this food drive report that the food from the food drive is usually of good quality, but fresh food is always hard to find. Fresh fruits and vegetables are not always included in the food provided. Other aspects of the good experience includes orderliness, cleanliness, and effective social distancing put in place at the food drive.
There is an opportunity to create other channels of advertising for food drives and sources of free food that are closer to where students live. Better quality and fresh food could be provided by participating local restaurants and grocery stores instead of just from the pantries.

Persona and User Journey Map

Based on our user interviews, we created a persona to represent our core user: a college student. With a user journey map, we identified the pain point she experiences along the way.

Competitive Analysis

With competitive analysis, we examined other apps on the market addressing food insecurity. We found most of the apps available address food insecurity, they can be boring or stuffy, or only serving a small area.

Among Individuals
Apps that help students post about sharing their food to other students in order to address food insecurity
Among Organizations
Apps that help organizations such as grocery stores pair with food banks to share resources.
Apps that help volunteers to sign up to pick up food from grocery store and other organizations to deliver to people who need it.
There is an opportunity to create an app that is fun and rewarding to use,  with the audience of everyone in mind to get free food, and for organizations to help individuals.

1. Design Questions

Based on observation, secondary research,  interviews, and competitive analysis, we created a design question to guide our design. We need to ask ourselves the question: what is creating the shame surrounding free food, and how can we decrease this feeling?

How might we make the process of getting free food popular, and can be spread by word of mouth?

2. Ideation

With ideation, we used a timed brainstorming session, along with voting to determine the direction we would like to continue. We discussed the ideas with the most votes and continued.

3. Refining Concept

With a simple wireframe, we outlined the sections that needs to be included in the app.

4. Artist Direction

To determine the aesthetic of the app, we created mood boards and the assets that should be included.


Colors, Fonts, Assets

5. Prototyping


Hi-fi Prototype

Our team submitted a hi-fi prototype to the Adobe Creative Jam. We did not win any prizes in this competition, but it was a great experience.

Guided onboarding
Bottom Navigation
Cooking Tutorial and Purchasing
Chats with Podges
Collecting Podges

6. Reflection

Contacting Mentors
Within this process my team was not able to find time to meet with mentors provided by Adobe. If we were to do this again we would make sure to meet with mentors, who will act like stakeholders to make our app adhere more to the brief.
Christian and I are interaction designers, but we recruited Tom, who majors in political science, to be part of our team. Collaborating with non design majors broadened our perspectives and was a valuable experience. In our future endeavors, we would love to include more voices from different educational disciplines.
Gamification is a conflicted space. We chose to gamify the experience of getting free food, which was treated usually somberly. Our reasoning is that we'd like to see this process, which brings shame to people, become something more universal, using game to make people better, by making getting free food fun. Free food should be something that everyone deserves and it's not shameful to get it. The ethics behind gamification is something I hope to learn about and understand more in future designs.