Sponsored by Artefact Group

A subscription box service for preteens with food allergies offering safe food, educational material, and monthly themed items. 


Timeline: 19 weeks, March – August 2018

Teammates: Vijay Farmah, Derrick Ho, Whitney Jenich

Key Contributions: Participant Recruitment, Data Synthesis, Storyboard Illustrations, User Flows, Visual Design for Educational Material, UI Spec, Writing & Editing


The Problem

The presence of food allergies cannot be understated. 1 in 13 children in the United States, or roughly 2 in each classroom, are allergic to one or more food allergens. Seemingly harmless foods that the rest of us take for granted can symbolize life or death for these children. Food allergies are on the rise and yet, there is no cure, which makes living with this medical condition all the more serious. Beyond the physical repercussions, food allergies can also greatly affect the child and parent emotionally and mentally.



Author Kai Brown with his book Kid's Guide to Life with Food Allergies


Why Focus on Preteens?

Studies reveal that 50% of deaths from severe allergic reactions occur in teens, a demographic most susceptible to engaging in risky eating. Our hope is to properly educate the preteens ages 9-12 before they enter the complexities of teenagehood. Transitioning them into a more empowered role will allow them to make sound decisions when it comes to navigating their food allergies.


Research Questions

How do children and parents prevent, react to, and manage food allergies?

How do food allergies affect interpersonal relationships in both the child and parent's lives?


Participant profile

Allergy breakdown
in our participants

We specifically chose to interview participants in parent-child dyads to better understand and build empathy for both parties when it came to food allergies. We also wanted to obtain a holistic perspective of their relationships, as we believe a partnership between child and parent are essential in managing a preteen's food allergies.


Primary Research Methods

Informing our problem space



We conducted four expert interviews with allergists, a nutritionist, and a community leader. 


To seek out information about the allergy community at a scientific and local level. We needed professional knowledge when it came to something as complex as food allergies, as well as perspectives on the parent-child relationship. The more professional input we had, the more we could frame our questions around key data points when it came time to talking with parent-child dyads.


Diary Studies

A week-long journal for the parent and child to record occasions relevant to the child’s food allergy, as well as feelings and thoughts in relation to these events.


To learn about our participant’s thoughts and feelings toward food, as well as recognize situations in which food allergies were brought up during their day. This information helped us to uncover opportunities for easing stress involved with food allergies.


Semi-Structured Interviews

We conducted nine semi-structured interviews in-home, whenever possible, to build rapport and get the most realistic understanding of the child's primary environment.

We asked the child to complete a drawing exercise as a way to encourage active thinking and to make the child feel comfortable sharing with us.


To gain deeper insights into how preteens and parents manage food allergies day-to-day, how allergies affects them, and their perceptions around it. 




Relationship Circle Activity

Incorporated into the semi-structured interviews, the relationship circle activity involved placing cards with representations of various people onto a mat. The closer in proximity a person was to the child, who was placed in the center, the more comfortable the child felt to the person. 


To understand how preteens viewed their relationships with people in their immediate and extended community, and if their views changed when it came to how equipped these people were in handling the child's food allergies. 




synthesis and insights

What did we learn?


Theme 01 /


"The teachers didn't talk to me. The communication was not adequate so we switched schools. I eventually heard about the peanut butter incident through [my son] and then his teacher was like, 'Oh yeah, that's what happened.'"


Trust between the parent and teacher is reliant on the teacher’s proven understanding of how to deal with food allergies.

Trust in the school system is compromised when regulations surrounding allergy education are inconsistent. Parental trust is dependent on their child’s ability to take control of their environment.


Theme 02 /


“My friends always have something that I can’t have. Almost always. They use it against me sometimes, like they might eat it so I can’t be around them.”

–Diary 2, Child

Children feel isolated with their food allergy because their natural curiosity to try new things is severely restricted, relative to their social circle.

Because food is a central aspect for social activity, there is a cultural stigma when one cannot participate.


Theme 03 /


“Kids are the canaries in the coal mine. They are the sirens telling us something is not right with our food or environment.”

–Home Interview 1, Parent

The high variability in food allergies causes society to be jaded by the word ‘allergy.’

There is a consensus amongst the food allergy community that unknown environmental triggers have caused an increase in food allergies.


Theme 04 /


“I don’t want the symptoms to be so bad. I don’t want to feel like I’m going to die if I eat eggs.”

–Phone Interview 1, Child

Heightened anxiety stems from trauma experienced during a past allergic reaction.

Distraction is a commonly-applied coping mechanism for children experiencing allergy attacks, either during or after,



From 135 to 5 concepts



How did we do it?

We first categorized our concepts into high-level stages: preventative, reactionary, educational, and aftermath. The important notion of being able to 'manage your food allergies' kept coming up during discussions, so we came up with these four stages to relate back to managing a food allergy. From there, we were able to identify overlaps and concepts that could be combined. We eliminated those that were not feasible in the time we had left to design our response, and from there, were left with about half of what we originally had on our board.

Because we had to narrow down to five concepts for testing, we decided to move the process along by each taking a different set of colored stickers and placing five of our stickers on concepts we wanted to pursue further. We talked through our reasoning for why we placed the sticker where we did, and eventually came up with our final five.



Five Final Concepts


wearable WITH app

A wearable device that monitors the child’s biometric symptoms and connects to an accompanying smartphone app

+ Agency for parents

- Child isn't actually managing their food allergy, skepticism around feasibility


Education Report

A diagnostic or educational report tailored to the child

+ Educational tool

— Variability in interest, one-time use


Food Scanner

A portable device that detects the contents of food either by scanning barcodes on packaging or by taking samples of food

+ Innovative and convenient

— Unsure if technology exists, high margin of error


Autoinjector Concealer

A comfortable and inconspicuous concealer to carry or have on body/piece of clothing

+ Unobtrusive, autoinjector can always be on-hand

— Participants had their own system in place, rarely was this an issue that led to severe reactions


Taking into consideration the pros and cons above for our five concepts, we decided to move forward with the subscription allergy box for the following reasons:

• Children and parents alike were excited about this concept

• Opportunities for education

• More involvement for the child

• A humane and inherently positive experience around food allergies


Next steps
through August...

  • Continue user testings

  • make decisions about box selection & box contents

  • design WEB UI

  • build Hi-fidelity prototypes