Spartan Food Pantry
Streamlining student access to food resources
The mobile app provides centralized, real-time information to streamline and enhance the pantry visit experience for students.


• The usability evaluations yielded positive feedback, with an enthusiastic reception for the innovative idea. This response underscores the app's potential for widespread adoption and success.

• The project's outcome contributes to the ultimate goal of improving the lives of the student community

• The System Usability Scale (SUS) final score for this study was 84 which is a positive indicator of the app's overall usability.


This project aims to enhance the visit experience to Spartan Food Pantry for San Jose State University students facing food insecurity through a feature-rich smartphone app, including a user-friendly interface, real-time inventory tracking, check-in/out, recipe support and educational resources.

My Role

User Experience Designer
Created a conceptual model to guide information architecture decisions.
Created personas, journey maps and user stories.
‍Designed iterations of low and high fidelity wireframes.

Zoom meetings

User Researcher
Conducted discovery phase user research to gain insights into user needs, behaviors and preferences.

Drafted usability test plans and scripts.
Facilitated semi-structured interviews during usability testing.

2 Semesters

The Problem

Within the SJSU community, students that visit the Spartan Food Pantry face a troubling issue: a lack of information about the available products in the Pantry coupled with the fragmented distribution of available information across various channels. Additionally, students can only visit the pantry once a week, making it even more crucial to fill this information gap.


Through an in-depth literature review and an extensive discovery phase user research, which included user interviews. I learned that there is a need for a solution that provides a centralized and reliable access to information about the pantry's inventory as well as resources.

Literature Review

Campus food assistance programs are a lifeline, yet many students face invisible hurdles – from stigma to a lack of awareness.
Unleashing the power of positive marketing, accessible fresh produce, and tech-savvy solutions can break down these barriers, turning pantries into pathways to success.

User Interview Insights

1. Inconvenience

Students mentioned that Semester-based registration and requiring ID card presentation upon each visit is challenging and inconvenient.

2. Uninformed about available inventory

90% of users expressed a desire to access inventory information prior to their visit to make informed decisions and potentially avoid unnecessary visits.

3. Lack of supporting resources

Students relied on word-of-mouth information about pantry, underlining the need for a more direct and accessible information source. Additionally, some participants indicated a need for assistance with recipes for cooking pantry items and guidance on grocery shopping tailored to their dietary preferences.

4. Peer influence

Recommendations and news from friends, significantly impacts users' decisions about pantry visits, highlighting the importance of diverse information channels and community engagement.

How might we ensure a more reliable and personalized service by providing clear and comprehensive information about the pantry program?


The objective henceforth was clear: transform insights into features. In the course of this exploration, I uncovered 3 empathetic needs among users:
1. Reassurance: Users seek the assurance that their visit to the pantry will be productive and they wont leave empty handed.
2. Empowerment: Users aspire to feel empowered, desiring the ability to make informed choices that resonate with their preferences, dietary restrictions, or specific needs.
3. Efficiency: Users aim to optimize their pantry visit and make the most out of the available resources.


Conceptual Model

Narrowing Design scope

This mobile application aims to serve as an interactive and informative platform that not only provides real-time information about the pantry's inventory and other resources but also enhances students’ overall visit experience.




Centralized Platform
Seamlessly integrate registration, check-in, inventory tracking, and comprehensive information to efficiently convey program details.

Personalized Support
Send notifications aligned with user preferences to keep them updated on pantry news. Provide users with recipe recommendations.

Community Hub
Foster a sense of community among users through features that enable discussions to exchange tips, recipes, and advice related to the pantry.


The design phase focussed on intuitive interface design, seamless navigation, and thoughtful incorporation of user feedback. I initiated the design process with the creation of paper wireframes, which were then transformed into low-fidelity prototypes that helped validate the concept and solidify the information architecture.

Mapping User Paths in Mid-Fidelity

With the conceptualization phase complete, we translated our ideas into tangible designs. I created wireframes and prototypes to visualize the new quote inquiry, account creation and order placement flows. The focus of this effort was on devising intuitive design solutions to streamline the processes.

Onboarding New Users
Browse Inventory
Find Recipes
Engage with Community
Check-in and Check-out

I ran one round of usability testing and included diverse SJSU students as participants, providing varied perspectives on the app. The sessions were conducted remotely via Zoom, one participant at a time.
This formative usability testing study collected quantitative data complemented by qualitative insights through a 'talk aloud' protocol.
Participants were asked about their overall experience and to rate each task on a satisfaction scale. The System Usability Scale (SUS) was also employed for assessing perceived usability. Following usability tasks, participants were provided time to 'free play' which enabled them to explore the app organically and voice their opinions on any additional issues or features they encounter, contributing valuable insights for more improvements.





New user onboarding and profile setup

Setup inventory restock notification

Find pantry news and other information




Check-In using alternate methods

Find recipes

Find and engage with the community

Problem: Onboarding task flow was overwhelming

IMPACT: Participants expressed that the onboarding task flow was overwhelming with over 11 steps, affecting the user experience and potentially discouraging engagement with the app.

SOLUTION: To address this, the onboarding screens were reorganized into two categories: information and action screens. Users now encounter only action screens initially, making the process less overwhelming. Information screens are introduced post-registration, and users have the option to easily close or skip them, ensuring a simplified and less intimidating onboarding experience.

Problem: Lack of feedback

IMPACT: Participants found the app lacked in clarity in setting up notifications for pantry items. While the feature was valued, users highlighted a lack of feedback and the bell icon changing color upon selection was not sufficient.

SOLUTION: Implemented a toast notification for enhanced feedback when users select items to be notified upon restock, providing a more informative and responsive user experience.

Problem: Title 'AI Recommendations' was not clear

IMPACT: Participants struggled to notice the "AI Recommendations" tab, and the name didn't stand out. Automatic item preselection in AI Mode led to confusion among users.

SOLUTION: To address these issues, tabs were replaced with a prominent button labeled "Find Recipes with AI" for clearer entry. Automatic item preselection in AI Mode was modified to simplify the user experience, minimize confusion, and enhance overall user-friendliness.

Problem: 'Groups' was not salient

IMPACT: Participants expressed a need for clarity regarding the "Community" and "Groups" sections.  The initial integration of groups within the community did not stand out to users and caused confusion.

SOLUTION: In the new iteration, groups were included and listed on the community screen for easy access, ensuring a cohesive and user-friendly experience.

Final Designs

After the results from the usability test, I redesigned the screens with a focus on these factors:
1. Reduce the information overload by simplifying and breaking down information into manageable chunks
2. Improved visual clarity, ensuring users could easily understand and navigate through the interface
3. Optimize the app for discoverability to ensure users easily find and explore its features.



The onboarding process seamlessly integrates identity verification and user intake form completion, ensuring a secure start. Users then effortlessly access pantry information, streamlining their introduction to the app.



The app provides a comprehensive inventory view where users can set restock notifications, apply filters, and sort items. This functionality enhances convenience, providing a tailored and efficient approach to managing and staying informed about available pantry items.



Users can select previously bought pantry items to find recipes or utilize AI to discover unique options. This dynamic feature enhances the cooking experience, ensuring users find inspiration so they can make the most out of their pantry visits.



This section fosters a sense of community through collaborative discussions and shared insights, allowing users to join relevant groups, share pantry experiences, and connect with peers.



The innovative checkout experience enables users to effortlessly scan barcodes or manually enter items. This process minimizes the burden on pantry staff, streamlining operations and ensuring a swift, efficient checkout.

Long term sustainability and stakeholder collaboration

Unfortunately, we couldn't collaborate with Spartan Food Pantry management as planned due to logistical constraints. This made me realize that a product's lasting success relies on continuous collaboration and involvement of stakeholders. Engaging with those invested in the project will support its ongoing development, adaptability to changes, and overall success

Value of Research and Usability Testing

The project emphasized the importance of thorough research and usability testing. It was rewarding to address the very real challenges SJSU students face and design solutions based on their insights, providing a valuable and crucial learning experience.

Going forward from here

I'm eager to make the Spartan Food Pantry app a long-term success by addressing funding, staffing, and ongoing support. Currently, I'm collaborating with enthusiastic student developers who discovered this project through usability testing recruitment fliers. Together, we're actively working on a plan to ensure the necessary resources and commitment from the university and pantry administration, striving to turn this vision into a reality.

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