Building a food delivery service, with lots of input from seniors

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Name: Erica Green

Title: Deputy Director, Parks & Community Services

City: Moreno Valley, Calif.

Early this year, Erica Green and colleagues from other Moreno Valley departments were learning about human-centered design as part of a training program through Bloomberg Philanthropies. Then COVID-19 hit and they were able to put to work what they learned right away.

Their team was tasked with helping stuck-at-home seniors get food, paper goods, and other supplies. They quickly built a prototype delivery service, tested it with seniors, and sought users’ feedback. Then they iteratively improved each part of the service, from the products that were delivered to the routes drivers took to do so. Eventually, the operation grew to consume an entire city gymnasium, stacked with pallets of toilet paper and other donations from local warehouses, and buzzing with Parks & Community Services staff who were packing food bags, dispatching drivers, and answering telephone calls from seniors.

“As we went through it, we would call back the residents and ask: ‘Is this meeting your needs?’” said Green, who supervised the operation. Based on feedback, they packed bigger bags with enough goods to sustain seniors through a whole week. In response to requests for games to pass time in quarantine, they also started including Sudoku puzzles. “We kept modifying how it worked. It became a pretty well-oiled machine.”

Eventually, Green was able to dial back the operation as other food programs ramped up. But she continues to focus on building stronger Parks programs by understanding what residents need, a process she describes using “Bloomberg” as a verb. “Before, we used to just come up with a solution and run with it,” she said. “Now, when we’re going to ‘Bloomberg’ something, it means that we’re testing it out with our community before we really roll it out there.”

Pro tip: “Listen to your residents. Ask them questions. Be out there and visible. We’ve got to really know what they need.”

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