EBT Process at Farmers’ Markets
Digitizing the EBT process at Farmers’ Markets to make it more seamless and efficient
(NOTE - This project is a work in progress)
Context and scope
Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) refers to the debit card that people below national poverty level use to redeem their benefits at farmers’ markets (Wholesome Wave Georgia doubles the amount of EBT funds spent). To narrow down the scope of our project, we chose to focus on Community Farmers Markets in Atlanta.
The current EBT system processes funds at the farmers' markets by using tokens. Tokens make the system very inefficient due to a number of problems associated with their use, including:
difficulty of tracking
proneness to human error
time spent counting
bulkiness of carrying
Also, the current reporting system used by managers is redundant.
We plan to digitize the entire process to make it more seamless and efficient. It would provide a better experience to all the user groups involved and allow them to spend more time on things that they love doing which chiefly is interaction with the community (for EBT customers), helping people (for Market Managers), building relationships (for Vendors).
Studying documentation, visiting markets and interviewing users
We studied documentation about farmers markets to gain background information and know the surrounding regulations to understand the constraints. We visited CFM’s farmers’ markets to learn about the context first-hand and conducted structured and semi-structured user interviews with the three user groups involved in the EBT process - Market Managers, the Vendors, and the EBT Customers to understand the tasks performed by them, their needs and pain points. We did five interviews with each user group. I conducted three interviews and formulated most of the interview questions. By analyzing the research data, we were able to determine a significant process constraint, and critical user needs as follows -
Process constraint - We learned that all our digital system would be used AFTER the EBT cards are initially processed by MarketLink, the ONLY app approved by USDA
Based on the data we collected from user interviews, we performed a task analysis of the overall existing EBT system at a CFM Market to help us understand the different steps it encompasses and where the pain points lie.
With our user groups’ needs in mind, we sat together and brainstormed potential solutions. We realized that having a connected digital application for Vendors and Market Managers was the only way we could satisfy all of their needs (easy to use and efficient reporting). This meant that we could brainstorm different solutions for EBT customers while the digital application for the other two user groups stays constant. We came up with three solutions, the third one being my brainchild.
QR Card: A reloadable card that carries the EBT user’s transferred funds and gets scanned at Vendor booths.
Basket Wallet: A basket that can be loaded with funds and scanned by Vendors; it is also used to carry purchased items.
Customer Application: A customer-facing app that lets EBT users view, manage and complete transactions.
For each solution, every team member presented their storyboard and design ideas. We converged on everyone’s ideas by outlining a step-by-step narrative for a solution, weighing the pros and cons of steps that we differed on. This activity allowed us to create an enhanced overall solution. To map the users’ journeys and explain the experience to users, we sketched storyboards for our final solutions.
For each solution, we discussed the high-level design concepts and followed that up by quickly designing low-fidelity wireframes to test them with users for features and information architecture.
Check back later for further updates to this project!
Photo courtesy for banner and tokens - Jenna Shea Photography