A big congratulations to the Fishes and Loaves team from the Yale studio who is partnering with the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry and Clothing Closet. The collaboration just won $20,000 to put toward the redesign of their donation service!

Going into the new year, the team is looking forward to implementing as “things always get messy once you put them out in the real world, but managing that chaos is a really fun part of the process.” Learn more about the project from an interview with team member, Ben Weiner!

What problem is your team out to solve and why?

Our partner, Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry and Clothing Closet, is the sole source of recycled clothing in downtown New Haven: every week, they provide free clothes to 75-100 people in need. They’ve done an amazing job bringing together the community, the space, and the clothing, and we saw an opportunity to design a great experience for their clients and volunteers alike. After much research we formulated this design challenge: How can we increase the efficiency of clothing distribution at Loaves and Fishes, while ensuring that both volunteers and clients have a positive experience?

How did you learn about the Walmart Food Pantry Holiday Makeover contest? 

Almost by accident. We were doing user research on-site, and the volunteer coordinator made an off-hand comment about it when we asked about funding. We were shocked—$20,000 for some clicks?—and knew that we had to get the Yale and DFA communities involved.

What does winning mean for your team and your community partner?

This money is a game-changer for a small outfit like Loaves and Fishes. They’re really excited about installing a walk-in freezer, which will let them serve more fresh meat and produce in their food pantry. For us, it’s going to translate into clothing racks, paint, and other supplies to redesign the “shopping” space.

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What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming new year? 

Probably Kendrick’s new album. For our DFA team, I’m excited to see our designs implemented as we start building things and training volunteers. Things always get messy once you put them out in the real world, but managing that chaos is a really fun part of the process.
How can the DFA community support you? 
We’ve started to think about scalability. If our model is successful, we want to make it reproducible so it can spread, but doing so is going to take a ton of creativity and engagement from people on the ground in their communities. If DFAers can share their thoughts on what they might look like, or even want to get involved, we would love to hear from them. Comment on the post below!