Nutrii is an event service that connects seniors with other seniors. Ther service was built under the principle that community comes first, and good health follows. Nutrii helps seniors to build relationships that in turn form community, all the while teaching seniors about the importance of maintaining good nutrition as they age. The Nutrii service provides seniors with the knowledge they need to live healthy lives, and the support system to help them out if they cannot do it alone.
This project was designed by myself and four others for the RSA Student Design Awards, a competition for emerging designers. The competition is aimed at challenging students to tackle pressing social, environmental and economic issues through design thinking. Each year, student teams can chose a topic from a list provided by the competition. My team and I set out to create a solution for the Harvesting Health Brief
Design a product, system or service which uses sustainable food and farming to help improve people's health or wellbeing.
We began our research with a particular focus on the product or system language mentioned in the brief; we looked into everything from the transportation of food, hydroponics and aquaponics, to repurposing food waste. We found that all of these topics were incredibly interesting and had a lot of potential, however we felt there was little we could do from a design perspective without touching the technology or policies behind them. We were in search of a problem that we as five design students, could have a big impact on within a short time period of four months.
We shifted our focus to the term "service" and paid particular attention the words "improve people's health or wellbeing" and spent less attention on "sustainable food and farming". We began looking in to groups that are commonly known for having poor health and wellbeing; shift workers (nurses, doctors, truck drivers, etc.), low-income families, and seniors.
Our research found that seniors, particularly those who were admitted to the hospital, were often malnourished or at nutritional risk which often resulted in high readmission rates, longer recovery times, and increased mortality.
My team and I found this to be a particularly interesting problem with a high degree of impact as a solution could make life easier on hospital patients while perhaps preventing the need for medical intervention in the first place.
Our first take at a solution targeted seniors hospital patients who had been flagged by a screening test as malnourished or at nutritional risk while in the hospital. The standard protocol for a patient who has been flagged is that they are seen by a nutritionist and given a diet plan to follow.
The problem with this current approach is that it fails to factor in the numerous obstacles that are preventing the senior from eating well in the first place: lack of transportation, lack of income, lack of ability, poor health, lack of knowledge about nutrition, poor appetite, living alone, etc. All of these factors can significantly impact a senior's ability to achieve adequate nutrition.
Nutree 1.0 as my team and I like to call it, was a door-to-door food delivery service. The service sourced food from local farms, prepared this food into enough meals for an entire week, and delivered it to the homes of seniors. The logistics of this solution were plentiful and the costs were quite high. We were planning to pilot the program in St. John's, Newfoundland where food security is an enormous and growing issue.
Newfoundland has the highest concentration of seniors in the country, and the highest rates of obesity and chronic disease. Their diet is historically poor (high in saturated fats, starches, and refined carbohydrates) and many residents don't know how to cook a nutritious meal. The cost of food is incredibly high and 1/20 residents really on food banks. The province also has a declining farming industry and 90% of food is imported. Average income in the province is quite low and most residents cant afford to eat nutritiously.
To get a better understanding of what life is like as a senior in Newfoundland, we were hoping to speak to seniors from St. John's or the surrounding area. This proved to be harder than expected as we reached out to every organization, personal connection, and Facebook group imaginable but ended up with no leads. We also wanted to gain insight into what dieticians were seeing in terms of the diets, challenges, and habits of seniors living in this community. We set up interviews with two separate dieticians from St. John's who informed a very important pivot in our solution.
We realized our solution failed to address one of the most significant factors that underlies malnourishment in seniors; loneliness and social isolation. While our solution did a great job of providing seniors with food, it wasn't sustainable. The happy path for a senior using Nutree 1.0 was to continue using the service for the rest of their life. We failed to give seniors the tools to adopt lasting change into their lives as we weren't addressing the critical problem of community.
1.4 million seniors in Canada report feeling lonely and 24% are socially isolated. Social isolation is now one of the key contributors to malnourishment.
With our revised approach, building and nurturing community became our core objective, and we treated health and nutrition as a bi-product of this. Our pivot also came with a name change (we found people were pronouncing Nutree as "Nut · Tree"). Nutrii does a better job of rolling off the tongue.
The new Nutrii is an event service that hosts monthly dinners and social get togethers catered to seniors on local farms in the area. The video below does a great job of showing you what the Nutrii experience looks like:
Once the team landed on this concept, there were numerous factors we needed to address before we could call it a done deal. The Nutrii experience relied on community partnerships who could help us make our events possible each month.
1. Farms with dining spaces and kitchens
2. Farmers who could provide produce for the meal and produce baskets.
3. Caterers who could prepare a meal for a part of ~30 guests.
4. Community Members who could come out to our events and speak with guests.
5. Volunteers who could help us run the events.
6. Transportation to and from the event with direct pick-up and drop-off.
7. Marketing channels. Partners who could help us spread the word about Nutrii and get those who need it signed up.
We realized that our service lived or died at our ability to market it. Without sign-ups, we had no way of making money. Therefore, our marketing touch points became our primary focus.
Nutrii needed to accomplish 4 core objectives: create community, promote health and wellbeing, be totally accessible, and do it all at a low cost to the customer.