Continuing our partnership with City Fresh, MAYA developed a pilot test to run at one of their locations. We worked with City Fresh to select the Bedford Heights neighborhood, as it represents a typical food desert area—low-income residents, low automobile ownership, and over a mile to a grocery store for many residents.
City Fresh is a CSA that delivers local farm shares on a weekly schedule. As with most CSAs, the consumers don’t have a choice in what items end up in their weekly share, but with City Fresh they can choose either a single share (small) or family share (large) from the farmers. Our pilot program added a text messaging layer on top of that ordering, along with reminders about pick-up locations and times, and the ability to sign-up via text.
We had overall good feedback from our pilot test, which ran over the month of September. The system scored high in usability, and both customers and workers were excited about the possibility of building it out more fully.
One hurdle that will be difficult to overcome is something that City Fresh is already wrestling with in Bedford Heights: getting buy in from locals who are unfamiliar with a service or vendor. The people behind this location of City Fresh are members of a church in Bedford Heights, but a church that draws from largely outside of the community. So getting the locals—who really need the service—involved and to trust an unseen product is difficult. Ordering via text message may only exasperate this.
People like to check out their produce before buying. It seems like there are two ways to make customers more comfortable: time and friends. Over time, they can feel comfortable enough with a vendor to order sight unseen. The other way, which we also saw evidence of in Bedford Heights, is to hear from a friend. This social aspect is extremely intriguing, and will definitely be a bigger focus of our work going forward.