Conner Drew | Elijah Parker | Sally Hall
Bitesized is a mobile application that allows dietitians to remotely support clients. The app promotes more frequent interactions than the typical monthly meeting, and makes it easier to create a more accurate representation of a client’s food intake. From a high level, this is how it works:
When creating a new business, it is important to consider your company’s social impact. Core to bitesized’s mission is creating shared value. Shared value refers to policies and operating practices that enhance the competitiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates. Bitesized creates shared value where the client, dietitian, and society all benefit.
Unfortunately, shared value receives little emphasis from both the public and private sectors. In fact, both Uber and the Food and Drug Administration miss the mark.
The “Sharing Economy” and Uber
While Uber operates in the “shared” economy space, it acts with selfish motivations. With income as its primary driver, it employs technology without considering the consequences.
In 2014, a hostage situation in Sydney, Australia lead the city to believe that it was under a deadly and coordinated attack. People were afraid for their lives. At the time, Uber implemented surge pricing, causing ride prices to increase by 4x, starting at about $100 to leave the area and get to safety. Uber’s justification was to motivate drivers to risk danger and pick up more people.
Many were outraged, while others argued that the surge pricing was a result of an established algorithm, not a human intervention. However, if Uber truly prioritized the needs of society, it would reconsider how the system reacts in the event of emergency.
Uber once again exhibits its priority on profit, developing its own “driverless” technology — exhibiting little concern for its current employees. As the company moves closer to a world run by Artificial Intelligence, bitesized will emphasize the dietitian’s human intuition. While we plan to gradually integrate AI into our product, we will be careful to enhance the dietitians’ skills, not replace them.
One way we plan to use AI is by allowing a client to automatically log his/her food photo without having to open up the app. The client would take a picture from their lock screen, then the bitesized system would analyze the camera roll and identify photos of food or grocery carts. Shown below is how this might look.
Nutrition Labels and the Health of the American People
The FDA, a guardian of our nation’s health, must also reconsider the perceived value and implementation of nutrition labels. The original purpose of nutrition labels was to help citizens make better decisions around diet choices. Despite the best intentions, it typically takes extensive nutritional education to fully understand the labels.
Bitesized aims to circumvent the complexity of nutrition labels by connecting clients directly to a dietitian. The nutritional expert will provide only the most important information to help the client understand what to eat, without requiring great analysis or interpretation.
Bitesized Shared Value
Where the Uber and the FDA fail, bitesized will succeed. By considering the short and long-term implications of our service, we aim to provide a shared value between clients, dietitians, and society.
Bitesized is a mobile application that allows dietitians to remotely support clients.
Core to bitesized’s mission is creating shared value. Shared value refers to policies and operating practices that enhance the competitiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates. Bitesized creates shared value for the client, dietitian, and for society.
Shared Value for the Client
There is a deep need for dietary support across the United States. There are 27 million Americans who have heart disease and more than 30 million Americans who have diabetes, generating $620 billion in medical expenses each year. These diseases are largely preventable through healthy eating. Unfortunately, diet change is incredibly difficult for a multitude of reasons, including ingrained habits, time constraints, limited financial resources, peer and family influence, and addiction to food itself.
Bitesized helps clients overcome major barriers to diet change by providing the following value: 1) regular and direct connection to a nutritional expert; 2) easy food logging; 3) inherent reflection and accountability 4) understandable nutritional guidance; 5) incremental change; and 6) a voice in their own food journey.
Regular and remote connection to a nutritional expert
Adopting a healthier diet is easier with a partner on the journey. However, many dietitians only meet with clients once a month, and require in-person meetings. Bitesized provides regular and remote connection to a dietitian, increasing access to the dietitian’s emotional support and practical guidance.
Inherent reflection and accountability
Reflection is key to long-term change — the more mindful the client, the more intention he puts into his actions. The very nature of taking photos promotes reflection and therefore increases the likelihood of behavior modification.
Accountability also plays a powerful role in behavior change — the requirement to share photos with a dietitian will make the client think twice before he makes a decision that will negatively impact his health.
Easy food logging
Recording food intake is quite beneficial — it facilitates self-awareness and can uncover patterns or habits previously unconscious. However, keeping a written food journal or inputting food items into a database can be tedious and time-consuming. Bitesized makes it easy, allowing the client to quickly photograph and share their daily food intake.
Understandable nutritional guidance
The confusing nature of nutrition science can exasperate and paralyze. Instead of asking clients to interpret complicated nutrition labels or count calories, bitesized’s dietitian educates the client with digestible tips, making recommendations based on his current habits.
Small, gradual change is more sustainable than trying to overhaul your diet in one fell swoop. Instead of prescribing a completely new diet or meal plan, the dietitian recommends small changes based on the client’s past and current behavior.
A voice in their own food journey
Instead implementing a “one-size fits all” diet, the dietitian meets the client where they’re at, allowing the client to play an active role in the recommendations and diet changes. Moreover, the client can choose to accept or reject each dietitian suggestion, making him more engaged in his own health.
Shared Value for the Dietitian
Dietitians have deep expertise in nutrition science and powerful intuition around client need. However, infrequent in-person meetings between the dietitian and the client can stall progress. Moreover, without a full understanding of the client’s daily food intake, the dietitian must resort to general suggestions, as opposed to more powerful, specific recommendations.
Bitesized delivers the following value to the dietitian: 1) better understanding of clients’ food intake; 2) the ability to provide more personal recommendations; 3) the ability to provide consistent communication; and 4) supplemental income.
Better understanding of clients’ food intake
Typically, a dietitian struggles to fully understand what the client eats on a regular basis — even if the client keeps a food log, information regarding portion size can lack accuracy. Bitesized allows the dietitian to get a more comprehensive picture of their clients’ intake.
The ability to provide more personal recommendations
Because the dietitian rarely fully understands the client’s food intake, her dietary recommendations must be more broad than specific, minimizing the potential power of her guidance. By showing the client’s daily consumption, bitesized allows the dietitian to make personally tailored suggestions, more relevant to the client’s current behavior and therefore more directly actionable.
The ability to provide consistent communication, from anywhere
There’s typically a lot of time between a dietitian and client meeting. Bitesized allows the dietitian to support the client on a more regular basis, from anywhere, giving her more opportunities to share expertise and support.
The dietitian earns money through the bitesized platform, earning $15 per month for each client.
Shared Value for the Client & Dietitian
Bitesized is essentially a private instagram for a dietitian and her clients, but with a much greater purpose.
Social media can be soul-less and draining. It falsely promises connection and love, only to waste your time and sell you more things you don’t need.
Bitesized uses the addictive nature of social media to a constructive end. Instead of mindlessly scrolling, or sharing photos for pure self-promotion, the interactions serve a purpose, building toward lasting, positive change, and cultivating a meaningful relationship between the dietitian and client.
Shared Value for Society
As illustrated by the walkthrough of bitesized, the long-term impact of the product gaining popularity maps to increased health of the population as a whole. We, previously, discussed the magnitude of the health crisis that we are in the midst of. There are 27 million Americans who have heart disease and more than 30 million Americans who have diabetes, generating $620 billion in medical expenses each year. With systems this large it is difficult for an individual to feel like they have a vantage point from which to see a possibility to create change.
When people band together in the name of a change that they see as needed, a collective power is created. Finding common ground about the prevalence of a problem, aside from all bias and perspective, means it is a real problem worth focusing on. Food labels is an excellent example.
In the 1960’s food labels began to have more comprehensive characteristics. The FDA said that these food labels were for “special dietary uses,” that is, intended to meet particular dietary needs caused by physical, pathological, or other conditions. Prior to this time, meals were primarily cooked using basic ingredients leaving no real need for nutritional information.
However, as the industrialization of food products continued to take root, consumers requested information that would help them understand the products they were purchasing. The evolution that ensued brought us too far on the metric side of the scale. This is ironic because bitesized takes a stance that doesn’t overload the user with scientific jargon. The goal being people can comprehensively understand, again, what is good for them and what is not.
As Uber’s political identity (deregulation and a dismantling of the social contract) is said to differ greatly from the service that they provide (facilitating rides from point A to point B), so, bitesized has the potential for a larger purpose. Will bitesized be able to leverage the community of users on the platform to understand what people value and want to know to be able to craft a new nutrition label? Only time will tell.
Either way, design, done right, is collective action. Bitesized studied people to discover how to support them in their desire for a path towards a healthier diet. User’s choosing an unorthodox service like this in place of institutionalized Health Care is collective action.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” -Henry Ford
Bitesized aims to do the same thing by abstracting people’s needs and giving them the next step that they are passively asking for.
The guide towards a healthier diet: Environmental Impact
Dietitians learn about food, nutrition, anatomy, physiology and how all of those disciplines interact and work together. Therefore they will all guide clients in a similar direction. Whole vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, and lean meats are what any dietitian will tell you to eat. These foods are both good for people and good for the environment. Let me explain with a few examples.
Cheez-its are a highly processed and widely distributed food product. Food production methods aside, I want to explore some of the ramifications of foods like Cheez-its. First of all, the ingredients in Cheez-its need to be distributed to the factories where they are produced (transportation). All of those ingredients then must be run through a series of complicated manufacturing processes to get them ready for consumption (utilities). Next, all Cheez-its must be sealed and ready for a long shelf life (packaging). Lastly, the packages must be distributed to various stores across the country (transportation).
The outcome: A food that is not nutrient dense, contains ingredients that contribute to disease, is inexpensive and environmentally costly.
In the research bitesized conducted to come up with the guiding principles for our product we spoke with a woman named Delilah. One of the things she said to us was,
“When I was diagnosed with diabetes, the doctor told me to eat fish, chicken and turkey. I’m supposed to eat more vegetables… She did not tell me why. I think beef is harder to digest?” -Delilah
Doctors and dietitians steer people, especially those with dietary disease, towards leaner meats. If the trend away from red meats continues this will cut our contribution to global warming significantly.
Cows eat ~6 pounds of grains (corn or soy) per pound of beef produced (resource allocation). Throughout the beef production process it takes ~600-700 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef (resource allocation). A cow lets out ~30-50 gallons of methane gas per day (emissions). This is a bigger contributor to greenhouse gases than transportation.
These 2 examples illustrate a higher level look at consumption that our consumerist society doesn’t normally see. And they shouldn’t have to. In terms of food, doing what is best for the individual is also best for our environment so bitesized delivers value that is actionable on the level that matters to the individual.
Carbon tax is a service that holds fossil fuel emitters accountable for the CO2 they emit into the atmosphere. Carbontax.org imposes a fee on the burning of fossil-based fuels. This serves as a disincentive to motivate a shift towards clean energy. This initiative was created based on the findings that if carbon was taxed and companies had to pay for their impact, many of those companies would no longer be profitable. In this way is there a correlation between carbon and food?
Fast food and other highly processed foods are a major perpetrator of the health issues facing the United States population. The revenue from the top 20 fast food companies was 143.8 Billion in 2015. Pepsi and Coca Cola make a little over 100 Billion combined. Comparing this ~250 Billion with the 620 Billion spent on health care for diabetics and those with heart disease we can see a similarity to the carbon tax model.
Should these companies that contribute to dietary disease also pay the price of medical care? Should unsustainable businesses even exist? ~25% of everyone’s tax dollars go towards health care. This means that everyone, including the people making profit at the top of these companies are paying a large amount of money for the impact that is created by unhealthy habits.
Interconnectivity & Humanization
All of this exploration gestures toward the sheer interconnectivity of our world; products, services and systems alike. Any changes touch many other systems that will also be impacted. These downstream effects are, more often than not, more important to consider than the initial creation.
All of these problems exist because we, as a society, have taken a deeper dive into the systematizing of operations with less consideration for the people that would be interacting with the system. Humanization of all of these systems is needed to allow the full value of the system to be experienced.