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Our Dinner Table

One stop service that addresses needs surrounding food insecurity and senior isolation.

Service design, UX/UI design

Best Student Project

Thank you Vancouver UX Awards for this recognition. What started off as a school project has become a lot bigger. It has started a conversation around the need to identify problem spaces that feel overwhelming to tackle, but require our attention. Thank you to everyone who congratulated me and showed interest in knowing more about Our Dinner Table. Who knows, one day it might become a real program, resulting in a food secure community!

Read Article here

Over the course of 10 weeks I designed a service that strives to combat both food insecurity and senior isolation simultaneously in Vancouver. Our Dinner Table does so by making space for easy access to cooked nutritious food and community engagement. I conducted preliminary and secondary investigation, identified the gap and intervened by developing a concept using a range of back end and front end prototyping tools with constant testing. 

Please note : This is a proposal for a service like Our Dinner Table to be developed. It does not currently exist. All organizations mentioned here are just examples. 
September - December 2022 (10 weeks)
My Role
Service designer, UX/UI designer
the problem
33% and 30% of Canadians over the age of 65 experience food insecurity and senior isolation respectively
the gap
absence of a consistent and reliable service that addresses both problems simultaneously, thus making access to help (for seniors) more cumbersome  
There exist a host of well-established top-down and bottom-up services that help people suffering from food insecurity and senior isolation.
services for food insecurity
services for senior isolation
the service
Our Dinner Table makes space for easy access to warm, cooked food and community engagement for seniors in Vancouver suffering from food insecurity and/or senior isolation. 
It can be hosted by the Pacific Institute of culinary Arts and supported by the Sustainable Food Systems Grant 
food insecurity
senior isolation
our dinner table
learn and register
  • Users visit the website to learn about the service. They learn how the service works, its' goal about the mission statement and team. 
  • Once convinced, the user is prompted to fill out a registration form.
student chefs cook
at a culinary institute like PICA
  • As seniors reach the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (PICA), the student chefs greet them and start preparing the meal. 
  • They serve the food once it is ready and distribute the remaining in containers for seniors to take home.

images from PICA's facebook page

meet and eat
at a culinary institute like PICA
  • As the meal is being prepared, seniors have the opportunity of mingling with each other, playing board games, striking conversations and even helping the student chefs with easy tasks. 
  • Once the meal is ready, they all gather in the dining room to enjoy a nutritious meal. 
why us
Our Dinner Table  we strive to increase access to help among seniors suffering from food insecurity and senior isolation by creating a one stop service trying to cater to the needs arising from both problems, simultaneously. The following features make us stand out.
reliable, consistent
We offer a long term seat at Our Dinner Table. Our grant allows us to host 30 seniors at a time, we strive to do so diligently.
mutual aid
While the seniors enjoy their meals, students at PICA benefit from the opportunity of putting their skills to use.
healthy lifestyle
Seniors would receive food security and would be a part of a family like community.
what is the current situation of food insecurity and the help available
several private enterprises, non-profits, and charities have taken it upon them to help those need
To understand the gravity of the situation around food insecurity, I did some research into what it is, why its exists and the services, initiatives and products that are currently working towards helping those suffering. Owing to the multiple stakeholders involved in the movement of food from its' source to the recipient I created an ecosystems map to highlight the infrastructures and resources involved. 
Food Donor Encouragement Act
retail stores
homeless shelters
community centres
food banks
food diversion services
partners helping with language barriers
partnered apps
social service agencies
wealth disparity
poor eating habits
senior isolation
traumatic life events
people suffering from food insecurity
community fridges
direct channels
too good to go
leaving it in bags outside
repurposing food
food recyclers
making dishes with leftovers
car rental agencies
grocery stores
donors donating food
ecosystems map
competitor analysis
trying to serve EVERYONE, only to realize that quality is being compromised
I did a deep dive into some of the major services and products that food insecure people use and benefit from to highlight gaps and pain points, my service might address.


helping people who experience food insecurity

increasing access to food

reducing food waste

reducing and recycling food waste


supplying food ingredients to food insecure people

an open access community fridge which people can donate to or take food from

an app that that connects customers to restaurants that have surplus unsold food

a product that appropriately breaks down food into compost


free of cost upon registering

free of cost

customer must pay a reduced amount for the surplus food

high one time cost 


only those who can prove that they are suffering from food insecurity

anyone who comes by it

anyone who has access to a phone

high income households/eateries who can afford this product


top-down service - reliable as it a centralized system

bottom-up initiative - not very reliable, dependant on donations

top-down service - reliable 

reliable once purchased


emphasis on quality, but has recently seen a dip due to being overwhelmed

no control over the quality of food being donated

end of day quality of food


a three step - appointment, registration and documentation process

no registration required

account to be created in the app

product needs to be purchased

type of food 

raw ingredients, healthy food, does not provide cultures specific foods, 

no control over type of foods

different types of foods based on the restaurants and stores listed


door step delivery/pick up

to be picked up within a time frame

community fridge to be found and food to be picked up by those in need

identifying stakeholders
culinary schools and seniors - tapping into overlooked resources and targeting a specific group of people suffering
Living close to Granville Island in Vancouver, I came across the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts on one of my visits to Granville Island. With my research underway, I was prompted to know what role, if any culinary schools are playing in the combatting food insecurity. 
  • In culinary schools each student makes 4 portions of a dish, of which 1 is tasted and 3 are wasted.
  • ​​33% of Canadians over the age of 65 experience food insecurity.

I wanted to design a service that is consistent, reliable and emphasizes quality of help over the quantity of people being served by tapping into untouched resources. 
concept development - key points
as I iterated and user tested my concept, I strengthened Our Dinner Table, to bring it as close to reality as possible
introducing mutual aid
  • Asking for help is not easy. Especially when someone has been food secure before. There is a social stigma attached to participating in services that give out food and maybe perceived as charity. Thus, I wanted to establish Our Dinner Table on the foundation of mutual aid, where there are 2 or more beneficiaries as personated below. 
food security
family like community
Our Dinner Table
John Rossi
Isabella Conti
real world experience
user personas
John Rossi

John is a 60 year old, retired school teacher, who lives in Vancouver. He lost his wife a few months back in a tragic accident which left him with injured knees. He lives alone in a two bedroom apartment. 

pain points
  • Has physical limitations 

  • Dependant on frozen food, takeout and his neighbours for food.

  • Concerned about his health and  expenses.

  • Misses eating meals with his wife.

  • A consistent, reliable source of healthy, nutritious food.

  • Food that is personalized to his liking and dietary needs as it is difficult for him to adapt to new foods at this age.

  • Risk of deteriorating physical and mental health.

  • Risk of increased expenditure on takeout.

“I feel very sluggish. I want to stay active but I don’t have the energy to. I want have a warm, healthy meal, but this pain is too much to handle!”

Isabella Conti

Isabella is a final year student, completing her master’s degree in culinary arts. She’s a conversationalist and enjoys collaborating with her peers to make delicious meals. Having developed a range of skills through this course, Isabella is excited to put them to use in a real world setting. 

pain points
  • Has not had a chance to put to use the skills learnt

  • Hasn’t had a chance to experiment 

  • Pressurized to produce familiar dishes to get good grades

  • Exposure - being able to apply the skills she has learnt through this course.

  • Needs to challenge herself to be able to learn her strengths and weaknesses

  • Excited to be cooking to help someone, instead of cooking for grades.

  • She will earn credits for this program which she needs to graduate.

"I wish I could get some real world experience with the skills I have developed. I want some unfiltered feedback on my dishes."

addressing senior isolation by introducing an aspect of community building
  • Initially I designed a service where a student from a culinary school like PICA would be matched with a senior registered in the program. The student would visit the senior's house and would cook them a meal. These interactions would give the senior access to nutritious food and the student some real world experience. 
  • However, having come across data which states that 30% of Canadians over the age of 65 experience senior isolation which is also a cause of food insecurity, I considered the aspect of community. Further, students may not feel comfortable going to a strangers' house which brought up the question of trust.
  • Thus, I shifted the physical location of the service to the culinary school, where seniors would be served in groups based on the schedules they chose. This would allow them to step out of their house and mingle with others. 
initial service flow
a student and senior get matched
student cooks at senior's house
senior enjoys a warm meal
new service flow
seniors are grouped based on the schedule they choose
seniors visit culinary school
students cook and the group of seniors interact with each other
senior enjoys a warm meal
an effort towards reducing senior isolation
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making the service more appealing and accessible

Having designed the overall flow of the service, there were a few questions related to its' details which were brought up during user testing. thus in order to further strengthen my concept, I mapped out a business model canvas, which would compel me to think about features like partners, revenue streams, costs etc. ​

business model canvas
key partners
  • grocery stores
  • car rentals
  • senior welfare centres
key activities
  • registration
  • email communication
  • buying groceries
  • pick up/drop off
  • student chefs cooking 
  • seniors socializing 
  • seniors and students eating
value propositions
  • Supporting the food needs of seniors with physical limitations unable to cook.
  • Based on consistency, reliability and mutual aid.
  • Making space for seniors to have more social interactions and for knowledge exchange.
  • Giving student chefs an opportunity to hone their cooking skills by experimenting with different dishes/cuisines/ limitations.
  • Providing all information through the website. Being transparent.
  • Allows lifelong participation in the program
  • No monetary transaction.
  • Empathetic and welcoming student chefs.
  • seniors over the age of 65
  • seniors who have a physical limitation and as a result are experiencing food insecurity.
  • students participating in this service
key resources
  • Culinary school like Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts
  • Faculty/administration who manages the program
  • Student Chefs
  • Cooking equipment
  • Website
  • Website
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Reaching out to seniors centres to make them aware of this service.
cost structure
  • Groceries
  • Student chefs stipend amounts
  • Website hosting
  • Car rental
revenue streams 
  • Sustainable Food Systems Grant
Our Dinner Table is free of cost to seniors. The sustainable food systems grant covers all expenses.
Seniors may avail of the door to door pick-up and drop-off service offered.
Possible car rental partner
meal choices
Seniors have the opportunity to choose the meals to be cooked for the group, by rotation.
Possible grocery store partner
front end prototyping and testing
"don't' shy away from iterating"
Seniors would look to the website to learn the what, why and how of Our Dinner Table. It was important to develop an aesthetic for the website which would communicate the essence of the service. Further, it had to be easy to navigate and accessible for the user group. In order to determine the sitemap of the website, I conducted a card sorting activity with a few participants. 
card sorting and sitemap
goals, food security and family like community 
mention that it is free
how it works
choose your schedule
suggest a meal
visit PICA with your group
student chefs cook
enjoy a meal and socialize
about us 
meet the student chefs 
contact us
personal details
food preferences 
dietary considerations
contact details
navigating through different aesthetics
This stage of the design process revolved around iterations and testing. I felt a number of emotions - excitement, satisfaction, frustration, doubt. But they all helped me produce a design that suits the service. 
  • Considered designing the website as a dinner table conversation. Included dinner table elements like a table cloth, spoons, plates, salt and pepper shakers etc. 
  • Through user testing realized that the information being communicated was not clear. Further, it felt more like a restaurant's website and required some realistic imagery.
  • Maintained the dinner table aesthetic using the table background and cutlery. Simplified the 'how it works' copy by making it self explanatory. Added some realistic imagery like seniors at a dinner table, food images etc. 
  • The aesthetic was not conveying the emotions I wanted it to. It felt heavy. 
  • I tried a completely different illustration style. The homepage is a zoomed out view of a dinner table with a wheelchair which emphasizes who the service is for. As the user navigates to the how it works page, they are zoomed into the table and each plate discloses information. 
  • This style allowed me to utilize the aesthetic I wanted to from the very beginning, maintaining the principles at the same time. 
style guide





Brown is associated with stability, steadfastness, simplicity and dependability. It imparts a sense of resilience, dependability, security, and safety.

final prototype
next steps
 "the folks from the Vancouver Economic Commission and Recycling Alternative folks LOVED your pitch deck"
Upon completing this project, my professor was kind enough to share my pitch with the Vancouver Economic Commission and Recycling Alternative. She mentioned that they thought Our Dinner Table was a very relevant service and that they are working on getting funding for some RAships, which they would keep me posted on. This is super exciting!
learnings + what I'd do differently
not all design tools will lead to new insights
As I was developing the concept, I used a variety of tools like user personas, user journeys, service blueprint, business model canvas etc. However, not all tools led to new insights. For example, a user journey and service blueprint were just different ways of representing the flow of the service. Thus while it might have strengthened my understanding of the concept, I have not included everything in this case study, making the storytelling more meaningful. 
thinking about nuances that go beyond the simple user flow
It was only when I user tested my concept, did I realize that participants were curious about aspects of the service I had considered inconsequential. Who buys the groceries? Is the service free? Who funds the service? Do students get paid? How do seniors with limited access to transportation reach PICA? etc. Doing research and ironing out these details, made Our Dinner Table more real. 
iterating is a must
Working on designing the website was a rollercoaster ride. I started with an idea which I felt great about but wasn't able to find the suitable way of executing it. I felt stuck quite a few times but the process of iterating instead of refining, allowed me to produce a design that I'm content with.
illustrations and logo design
With some more time, I would have liked to clean up my illustrations. As of now they look quite rough. Further, exploring textures like a that of table mats, might also break the solid colours. I would also like to design a logo for Our Dinner Table depicting its' efforts of addressing food insecurity and senior isolation. 
pitch deck here

see more

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