MyGrocer App-Final Project

My Grocer

My app is designed to address the ascending food prices by creating a financially economic way to grocery shop. MyGrocer allows you to type in a product and it will then aggregate information by giving you a list of the cheapest prices and the store or market that sells it. You can also type in a store or your zip code to see a list of what they sell. Low-income shoppers have stretched their bills by shopping at discount stores,  purchasing less, and being forced to substitute quality food for cheaper alternatives (Leibtag & Kaufman, 2003). According to USDA economist Mark Lino, the cost of food went up 32% between 2003 and 2013 and a moderate-cost healthy plan went up by 38% during that same time span (Hellmisch, 2013).  With the price of grocery shopping for a family shooting up and the economy slowly improving , it is important to look at cost effective strategies to budget spending habits for families and those on a tight budget, such as college students and other young adults. In this article will I lay out my views of social justice, how my app works for social justice, and an in-depth explanation of how my app works.

Starting off, it is important to point out how I’m attacking this project for social justice by clearly defining my own view of social justice. Amartya Sen presents social justice as, “enhancing the lives we lead and the freedoms we enjoy, expanding the freedoms we have reason to value” to become “fuller social persons, exercising our own volitions and interacting with and influencing the world in which we live(1999, 14-15). Sen argues the point that it is the duty of the ‘privileged’ to supply the tools for people to exercise their agency to become the change they want to see happen rather than just giving it to them (Light & Luckin, 2008). This view of social justice allows the user to participate in helping their own cause by supplying them with the tools to make an immediate difference in their lives rather than being hamstrung by superior powers or slipping through the cracks as with the Utilitarianism as proscribed by the work of Jeremy Bentham (Light & Luckin, 2008). The grassroots approach championed by Sen is what MyGrocer aims to achieve, by giving individuals the capability of fighting back against health and economic deficiencies.

In the Unites States the leading cause of death is heart disease, with about 1-in-4 Americans dying of heart disease every year (Murphy et al., 2010). Diet and exercise are the leading causes and cures for this disease as well as type 2 diabetes, which is the seventh leading cause of death in the US and most prevalent among minorities (Anand et al, 2009; Data and Statistics about Diabetes). A nutritional diet including fruits and vegetables is shown to help with coronary heart disease, but with the price of food going up and lack of access to nutritional food in urban areas due to a shortage of supermarkets and transportation, it is hard to maintain this diet particularly amongst low-income neighborhoods (Moreland et al., 2001). Choosing a healthy diet is influenced by factors such as taste, convenience, and cost with cost being the most significant of the bunch (Moreland et al., 2001). During the Great recession of 2008, food prices saw inflation of over 5% leading to middle-income (average income: $46,012) households cutting back on grocery expenditures by 12.5%, while low-income (average income: $9,846) households saw cut backs of 1.8% (Kumcu & Kaufman). Although this rise in food cost in 2008 was historically lower than other recessions, we can see that drastic price increases affect not only the poor but middle class as well (Dorward, 2011). One of the main reasons why we didn’t see a massive cut back amongst low-income households during the recession is because they deal with exorbitant food prices every day. In highly populated urban areas the cost of living is much higher for necessities, like food and housing, which decreases purchasing power leaving low-income households with less discretionary income (Warne & Ostria, 2013). Urban citizens spend 3% to 37% more for groceries than those living in the suburbs and more access to larger supermarkets, leading researchers to find that the lack of supermarkets is a contributing factor to declining health among the poor (Moreland et al., 2001).

Residents of food deserts, which are areas with limited access to healthy food choices, are usually forced to buy groceries at convenience stores and gas stations and are likely to pay higher prices for groceries along with a limited option of fresh fruits and vegetables (Alviola et al., 2012). In Hendrickson, Smith, and Eikenberry’s study of food deserts in Minnesota, they found that people living in food deserts are more likely to develop diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease because of their low quality and limited food choices (2006). The research done by the authors above focus specifically on brick and mortar grocery stores, but over the last decade farmers’ markets have opened up a new avenue for fresh produce sold in food deserts. In a study done in London, Ontario they found that while supermarket prices had gone up by 9%, grocery shopping in the area had become less expensive dropping 12% thanks to the farmer’s market reduced prices of cheese, meats, and produce. With the introduction of the farmer’s market in London grocery prices in the area decreased almost 12% in 3 years, while only paying 5.7% more than the average supermarket prices (Larsen &  Gililand, 2009). Farmers markets have seen an increase of 84% over the last decade and have helped lower obesity prevalence while also helping to serve areas that could not otherwise be reached in any feasible manner by large supermarkets due to geographic restraints (Jilcott et al., 2010).

A couple key problems that occur with both farmers markets and large grocery stores is both over access of cheap food and lack of access to farmers markets in some areas. Jilcott cites a study that found an increase in obesity by 1% per 100,000 people located near a Wal-Mart Supercenter; this was due to the low cost of food and increased bulk purchases (Bonanno & Goetz, 2010; Chandon & Wansink, 2002). In a study done in Washington State, it was found that most farmers’ markets were located in larger urbanized areas were predominately located within 1-km of a grocery store with others not much further away, this was due to most vendors valuing areas of higher traffic that are associated around retail areas (Sage et al., 2013). Despite growing access to fresh produce and nutritional food, it is ultimately up to the individual to make the choice to pick a healthier lifestyle regardless of their economic background. As Sen points out, we must give people the tools to make the change that they want, but in the end they need to be willing to take action.

During my field research I found a few important characteristics on how people shop that I’ve included as part on my design for MyGrocer. My research was conducted at Henning’s Market in Harleysville, Pa, which is located in Montgomery County, and has a 79% white population (2010 Census). In Kimberly Morland’s study she found that there were 4 times more supermarkets in white neighborhoods than in black neighborhoods and Harleysville is no exception with 9 large supermarkets within a 10-mile radius from Hennings. The demographic of those who shop at Hennings are predominantly middle-class to upper class and usually late 20’s and older.

During my observations I noticed that many families were out shopping together and one of the most prevalently used item during shopping was the grocery list. Researchers found that the grocery list was connected with being more efficient while shopping and also serves the purpose of buying less, not forgetting items, and controlling expenses (Putrevu & Ratchford, 1997; Thomas & Garland, 1996). In a Canadian study they found non-list users were found among 15 to 24 year olds and 40 to 60 year olds who were single, childless couple, or empty nesters; I also found this to be partially true (Bassett et al., 2008). During my research it was younger couples who were using their phones to call home and pick up something for dinner, but I did notice many older citizens carry around lists. The list is a very important component of my app because it has been found that in households with income less than $50,000 used a grocery list and was more cognoscente of price as an influence while shopping (Bassett et al., 2008). The addition of the grocery list feature in my app can help those with lower incomes to budget their expenses by being in control of what they need without making unnecessary additional purchases.

Another feature I picked up on during my research was the use of discount store cards, which account for a large portion of sale items at Hennings. These store cards allow customers a small percentage off store items and gain gas rewards if you buy over a certain amount during your trip, Hennings has also moved to the majority of their sales being store card only so it’s important to make that known to people who have not signed up for a card. Lastly it was noted that most mobile use by customers occurred in high waiting areas such as the deli counter and while checking out, but the majority of phone use was by employees.

Out of this research I found that since employees were the highest users of mobile phones, even though they aren’t supposed to while working, this could be turned into a positive by giving every employee with a smartphone the ability to better assist customers on inventory matter, such as if they stock a specific item. The employee could type in the item and quickly respond without having to shoo them away to customer service. For my grocery list section, instead of just giving the user a place to type in items, you can type in your list like you would normally and by hitting a scan button the app will scan the list and give you back the lowest prices in the area, your total cost, and the cost by each store so you’re not running to a different store for each item.

This app uses the method of crowdsourcing by allowing citizens to input data of food prices that they encounter and updating those prices in the app for others to use. So far I’ve seen no other app that has dealt with grocery shopping with the same tact that my app does, but there are some that use crowdsourcing for the greater good. The design for this app came from my frequent use of the gas price app Gasbuddy which updates gas prices through crowdsourcing, but also gas companies and credit card companies. In Howard Rheingold’s article he argues that with every positive step mobile technology takes in empowering citizens for change and to strengthen democracy, they can also strengthen centralized authorities through surveillance and misdirection (2008).

MyGrocer steers clear of company oversight by not partnering with corporations, because even though this would help cover an entire stores inventory quicker than through customer input, it can give people a sense of gratification that they helping to contribute to a greater cause. Another app that that encompasses the scale of an app like mine is the FitDay diet app. I’ve used the website version of this app before and was struck by how large the scale was as far as data went. This app uses crowdsourcing to input nutrition labels for every kind of food and drink to allow other users the ability to track their diet without having to tediously input all the data themselves. I feared that MyGrocer may have been too ambitious since your average Wal-Mart Supercenter caries around 175,000 items, but there is a precedent through apps like FitDay and Wikipedia of users uploading a high quantity of accurate information for the public good (CNBC, 2004).

The mobility of MyGrocer is very important element in designing for social justice and for the demographic I am targeting which are lower-income households and individuals. FitDay and Gasbuddy both work in tandem with their parent online websites which offers a more content than their app versions, and although MyGrocer can be used predominantly before leaving the home to cut down on shopping time, its mobility that will allow it reach a further audience. In 2013, smartphone sales doubled the industry rate for people earning less than $30,000, holding the largest share among all income demographics (NPD, 2014). It was also found that 46% of earners in this income range are wireless Internet users, making them the fastest growing users of any income demographic (Zickur & Smith, 2012). MyGrocer uses data and wireless technology to be able to function on the go, but thanks to more stores incorporating Wi-Fi users won’t have to worry about using up all their data while shopping (Kopytoff, 2012). Taking into account the rise of smartphone sales and wireless Internet use from those earning less than $30,000, low-income households are turning to mobile phones to connect, thus giving MyGrocer the audience that it’s targeting.

In Lee Humphreys article she found that the surveyed users of the mobile app Dodgeball were not greatly concerned about their privacy because they believed they had control over the information being sent and since they were experienced users they were more Internet savvy (2011). We have seen since then how much information is gathered by government agencies along with corporate entities and we cannot be too careful in protecting our privacy, which is why MyGrocer takes this issue seriously. Unlike a lot of other application that use account logins, links to social media sites, and personal information, MyGrocer has no sign-in stipulations and allows the user more control over what they want to be saved in the app.

MyGrocer allows the user to input their zip code or use GPS technology to pinpoint grocers around that area, but the user can choose to turn GPS tracking off or choose to search a grocer instead of letting their zip code be known. MyGrocer has the ability to archive information such as zip codes, grocers, and frequent items, to give the user an easier experience by not having to punch this information in the search every time they open the app. This archive feature can also be turned off by the user and can instead save this information in the favorites tab if they wish. If the user has already gathered the information they need at home from a private Internet source and only need the app for the grocery list, they can access this feature without connecting to their data plan or an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. With growing weariness of government oversight I believe users would find the application to be nonintrusive to their overall privacy.

Lastly I would like to address what designs I’ve incorporated to assist those with hearing and sight complications into MyGrocer. To start, there have been great strides in software companies introducing new technologies to allow the blind to use smartphones to near their full potential. Apple’s VoiceOver is the world’s first gesture-based screen reader, which means that the blind can access apps on their smart phones by swiping their finger over the phones surface prompting VoiceOver to read back their apps (Bilton, 2013). For Android customers, Google’s TalkBack feature adds spoken, audible, and vibration feedback for blind users (Bilton, 2013). MyGrocer incorporates these technologies and more by including a ‘Snap’ feature which works like the app TapTapSee, by giving blind shoppers the capability of taking a picture of an item and having the app identify that item and audibly respond back with the lowest price and store in the area. I also include a customizable tab box of frequently used items like milk and eggs on the home page of MyGrocer, to make searches more easily accessible for blind and less mobile savvy users. According to the World Health Organization as of 2013, there are 285 million people worldwide that suffer from blindness or are visually impaired (WHO, 2013). With the baby boomer generation getting older we could see an influx of more visually impaired individuals and so the need to make apps more accessible is paramount (Bilton, 2013).

MyGrocer does not pretend to help eradicate obesity and diabetes or attempt to solve the hard economic pressure felt by the poor and middle class, it is as Sen says a ‘tool’ to help those who are suffering from these issues to make a small change in their lives by budgeting their earnings so they can spend their savings in other pressing areas.  With low-income households moving toward mobile technology and a flow of farmers’ markets in urban and rural food deserts this app could be an important instrument to help users to start making a difference in eating habits by tracking down affordable venues to buy better food. As someone who suffers from a minor gluten allergy and knows people with this problem, finding gluten-free food at a reasonable cost is extremely difficult and although locating stored that sell gluten-free items is becoming more common it can still take a massive bite out of your savings. MyGrocer can help those who suffer from food allergies track the grocers that carry the items they need at the best price without searching over the Internet or driving from store to store. I believe an app like this could have unintentional uses in the political field, by working in tandem with an app like Buycott and finding alternative store items to match your views for the best price possible. Ultimately, there are many obstacles that low and middle class society faces with unemployment, price increases, and the recession that makes it harder for people to administer any agency they have in helping with the cost of goods, but I believe MyGrocer could be a powerful ally in taking a positive step for a healthier, affordable lifestyle.

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Cited Sources

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Kopytoff, V. (2012, December 14). Why stores are finally turning on to WiFi – Fortune Tech. Fortune Tech Technology blogs news and analysis from Fortune Magazine RSS. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/12/14/why-stores-are-finally-turning-on-to-wifi/

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Bilton, N. (2013, September 29). Disruptions: Visually Impaired Turn to Smartphones to See Their World. Bits Disruptions Visually Impaired Turn to Smartphones to See Their World Comments. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/disruptions-guided-by-touch-screens-blind-turn-to-smartphones-for-sight/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Warne, L., & Ostria, M. (2013, November 7). How Differences in the Cost of Living Affect Low-Income Families. How Differences in the Cost of Living Affect Low-Income Families. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ib133

Chandon, P., & Wansink, B. (2002). When Are Stockpiled Products Consumed Faster? A Convenience–Salience Framework of Postpurchase Consumption Incidence and Quantity. Journal of Marketing Research39(3), 321-335. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jmkr.39.3.321.1

Bonanno, A., & Goetz, S. (n.d.). Adult Obesity and Food Stores’ Density – Evidence from State-Level Panel Data.http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/6

Jilcott, S. B., Keyserling, T., Crawford, T., Mcguirt, J. T., & Ammerman, A. S. (2011). Examining Associations among Obesity and Per Capita Farmers’ Markets, Grocery Stores/Supermarkets, and Supercenters in US Counties. Journal of the American Dietetic Association111(4), 567-572. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2011.01.01

Larsen, K., & Gilliland, J. (2009). A Farmers’ Market In A Food Desert: Evaluating Impacts On The Price And Availability Of Healthy Food. Health & Place15(4), 1158-1162. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.200

Sage, J. L., Mccracken, V. A., & Sage, R. A. (2013). Bridging the Gap: Do Farmers’ Markets Help Alleviate Impacts of Food Deserts?. American Journal of Agricultural Economics95(5), 1273-1279. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aat031

Hendrickson, D., Smith, C., & Eikenberry, N. (2006). Fruit And Vegetable Access In Four Low-income Food Deserts Communities In Minnesota. Agriculture and Human Values23(3), 371-383. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10460-006-9002-8

Kumcu, A., & Kaufman, P. (2011, September 1). Food Spending Adjustments During Recessionary Times.USDA ERS –. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2011-september/food-spending.aspx#.U2v_da1dVsa

FAST FACTS Data and Statistics about Diabetes. (n.d.).http://professional.diabetes.org/admin/UserFiles/0%20-%20Sean/FastFacts%20March%202013.pdf. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://professional.diabetes.org/admin/UserFiles/0%20-%20Sean/FastFacts%20March%202013.pdf

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Humphreys, L. (2011). Who’s Watching Whom? A Study of Interactive Technology and Surveillance. Journal of Communication61(4), 575-595.

Hellmich, N. (2013, May 1). Cost of feeding a family of four: $146 to $289 a week. USA Today. Retrieved March 22, 2014, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/01/grocery-costs-for-family/2104165/

Anand SS, de Koning L, Shannon HS, Mente A. A Systematic Review of the Evidence Supporting a Causal Link Between Dietary Factors and Coronary Heart Disease. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(7):659-669. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.38.

Light, A. & Luckin, R. (2008). Designing for social justice: people, technology, and learning. Opening Education. Retrieved  https://mobmed14.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/designing_for_social_justice.pdf

Putrevu, S., & Ratchford, B. T. (1997). A model of search behavior with an application to grocery shopping. Journal of Retailing73(4), 463-486. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0022-4359(97)90030-0

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Alviola, P. A., Nayga, R. M., & Thomsen, M. (2013). Food Deserts and Childhood Obesity. Applied economic perspectives and policy35(1), 106-124.

Dorward, A. (2011). Getting Real About Food Prices. Development Policy Review,29(6), 647-664.

Thomas, A., & Garland, R. (2004). Grocery Shopping: List And Non-list Usage. Marketing Intelligence & Planning,22(6), 623-635.

Rheingold, Howard. (2008). “Mobile Media and Political Collective Action.” In Katz, J. E. (Ed.). Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. P. 225-239

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Census of Population and Housing. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/www/decennial.html

Sen, A. (1999). The Perspective of Freedom. Development as freedom (pp. 14-15). New York: Knopf.

Leibtag, E., & Kaufman, P. R. (2003).Exploring food purchase behavior of low-income households how do they economize?. Washington, D.C.: Economic Research Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Visual Design Cites

Shop Rite Logo [Image]. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://blogs.poughkeepsiejournal.com/glutenfreeinthehudsonvalley/files/2013/05/shoprite1.jpg

Wawa Logo [Image]. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://blog.winterhavenchamber.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/WaWa-Winter-Haven.jpg

Snap Logo [Image]. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://evicars.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/icon128.png

Voice Mic Logo [Image]. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://www.hacker9.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/voice-to-text-converter-software-free-download.png

Acme Logo [Image]. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://www.viableretail.com/~acme/acme_logo_01.jpg

7/11 Logo [Image]. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://nyocommercialobserver.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/7-11-logo.png

Superfresh Logo [Image]. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from  http://nyocommercialobserver.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/7-11-logo.png

Scan Logo [Image]. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from  http://d1hwvnnkb0v1bo.cloudfront.net/content/art/app/icons/shopsavvy_icon.jpg

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