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Culinary Care

Culinary Care

The Client

Culinary Care


Chicago-based nonprofit Culinary Care delivers free restaurant meals to cancer patients and their loved ones during chemotherapy sessions. The organization has one full-time employee, a couple of part-time employees and a team of dedicated volunteers. Despite the small team, it’s a mighty organization that has delivered thousands of donated meals.

The Challenge

In the first meeting, our client made an assumption that users needed more transparency around the service.  We learned once a user applied to the program by filling out an online form, all communication including questions, changes to delivery and food orders were done over the phone and email. This was very taxing on a small team of employees. Users were also confused about the service. Did they qualify? How did it work? What if they needed to make a change to a delivery time or location? Our client needed a solution to better communicate Culinary Care’s service and empower users to request and edit an order on their own.


An adaptive web design allowing for unique desktop and mobile experiences. We designed a mobile onboarding, enrollment form and a portal for ‘on-the-go’ changes to orders. The portal allowed existing users to edit delivery dates, times and personal information such as food preference. Additionally, we provided a suggested redesigned Culinary Care home screen. During user interviews we asked them to walk us through the current home screen and identify points of confusion. There was many. We also believed redesigning the homepage would help users better understand Culinary Care’s mission and how the service works.

Research Methodology

Stakeholder and User Interviews
It was important to know what daily life was like for patients and caregivers. We wanted to understand what it’s like to receive chemotherapy. How long does it take? How does it affect taste buds and appetites? What are the emotional, physical and mental challenges patients and caregivers are experiencing? My colleague and I spent days interviewing cancer patients, caregivers, and medical professionals. I took the lead during this process writing up questions and interview scripts. I drew on my journalism experience of asking tough and delicate questions. It was our duty to get an accurate picture of what life is like for these folks, and that kind of honesty often comes from hard questions, asking for details and sometimes uncomfortable silences.

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Service Design: User Journey Mapping
We worked up a user journey map that showing a step by step process of finding and registering for Culinary Care. In addition to those steps, we also identified many pain points. Mapping out the user experience helped us understand frustrations and where they encountered points of confusion. Text in purple are the steps the user takes, blue marker showed frustrations and green indicated possible solutions.


User Frustrations

Confusion about eligibility
Who is the website speaking too?
Who do I contact with questions?
What if I need to change a delivery location or time?
What is the call to action on the website?
Confusing enrollment form
Unclear about next steps
Can the service accommodate a special diet?

Human-centered designs

We decided to move forward with adaptive web design because it gave a unique experience depending on screen size. A Culinary Care user could enroll with the service on a desktop or mobile and once approved by Culinary Care the user could access the mobile portal. This portal was designed to be more ergonomic and easy to use in a on-the-go setting. This design decision was completely inspired by research. We found most users used their mobile devices in the hospital setting. They needed the ability to change their delivery date, add orders and accommodate for changing taste preferences on the go. Users also wanted transparency over timelines and the process in general, ie. how many meals they were allowed to order and how many others were allowed to eat with them. We also took into consideration the economic feasibility for Culinary Care, as a small nonprofit and concluded that development of an adaptive website is more cost effective than a new app.

After a bunch of sketching and iterating and usability testing….ta da

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