Tag Archives: SMS

Rachel’s Proposals: Mobile Healthy and Budget-Friendly Recipes and Technology Classes for Entrepreneurs

Proposal #1: Web-based and Mobile Healthy Recipes and Cooking Tips for Low-Income and SNAP Communities in NYC


While working with low-income communities, I’ve discovered that residents, who may or may not be receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, often struggle with learning how to eat (and cook) healthy. Various factors may complicate their attempts to incorporate healthy foods into their and their families’ daily lives: time, transportation, food costs, accessibility to healthy foods, “ethnic” or cultural palates and knowledge of how to cook healthy foods.

One of the biggest issues residents shared with me is “How can I cook healthy on a budget or fixed income?” While they know where they can shop for healthier foods, such as fruits, vegetables, soy-based foods and low-fat dairy products, residents are often unsure of two things: how to use these ingredients to create healthier meals and how to substitute ingredients to make their favorite/familiar dishes healthier.

In order to address these problems I will build a WordPress site and a complementary mobile (SMS) service that will provide healthier recipes and healthy eating/cooking tips targeted for low-income/SNAP populations living in NYC. Users will be able to sign up for a SMS service that will text recipes and tips weekly. They will also be able to use the website as a recipe portal—and as a space to continue their food education. In addition, the website will house a series of short YouTube videos showcasing cooking skills/tips.


Two-job TJ feels like she is always working—and seldom has time to prepare a home-cooked meal. She has been working two jobs for the past decade in order to send money to her parents and brothers in Mexico. She is often too tired on her days off to cook—as sleep and other tasks take precedence over healthy meal planning. TJ eats out at a fast food restaurant or bodega in-between her morning shift at a fast food restaurant and her evening shift as the local supermarket. While TJ knows she can make healthier eating choices, she believes that eating healthy is expensive—and time-consuming.

Snappy Sally lives with her partner, their two school-aged children and her mother-in-law. Sally’s partner recently lost her job and the family has been struggling to manage their finances while relying on Sally’s part-time salary. Sally went to the local food pantry and with the help of a case manager her family is now receiving SNAP benefits. But Sally knows that with her family’s limited income, plus their SNAP benefits, she needs to change how she shops for (and cooks) food. SNAP only allocates approximately $4/day for food—so she must figure out how to feed her family on this budget.

Standard American Diet Sam knows he needs to eat healthier. At his most recent physical Sam’s doctor diagnosed him with hypertension. And Sam knows that his parents’ poor eating habits contributed to their Type 2 diabetes diagnoses—and if he doesn’t change his exercise and food habits he will also be at risk for developing the disease. Sam’s doctor suggested that he increase his exercise routine and modify his diet to include more plant-based proteins and fruits and vegetables. But Sam is unsure how to do this—as cooking has never been his forte.

Retired Ro lives on a fixed-income. She loves to cook and often cooks for her grandkids as she watches them a few times a week after school. Ro knows she needs to expose her grandkids to healthier recipes—and that she could stand to add some more fruits and vegetables to her diet herself. She loves visiting the farmer’s market but often doesn’t know what to do with much of the produce she sees.

Mobile Mike had been receiving assistance from the local food pantry for the past few years. Fortunately, Mike has recently found a job and graduated from the food pantry. At the pantry Mike participated in a series of cooking and nutrition classes. He wants to continue this learning outside the classroom and is looking for an online resource that will help him do this.

Use Case Scenario

Sally, Sam, TJ, Mike, Ro and others will be able to find/use this tool at four “places”:

  1. Where they register for SNAP benefits — Snappy Sally is registering at the local food pantry and her case manager gives her an informational flyer and tells her about the tool. She uses it to find recipes she can afford to cook for her family.
  1. At a food pantry or other food/health-focused community organizations — Sam’s doctor recommends he take a class at a local organization to learn how to incorporate more healthy foods into his diet—and he learns about the tool at this organization. He uses it to find healthy recipes he can cook at home.
  1. Virtually via a Google search for something like “healthy recipes when you’re on a budget” or “healthy recipes for SNAP recipients” — Mike is searching online for healthy recipes on a budget and finds the tool. Mike uses it to complement the nutrition classes he took at the food pantry. A budding chef, Mike primarily uses the cooking tips to help him build his kitchen skills.
  1. In the community: at local doctor’s offices, churches, community organizations etc. — TJ sees an informational flyer about the tool at her church. She uses the text message service to get recipe updates and for its healthy eating tips.

They will use this tool as:

  • A recipe toolbox (a virtual cookbook)
  • A companion to cooking, nutrition (or other) classes they are taking at a local organization like a food pantry
  • An educational tool/space to learn how to cook healthy foods on a budget
  • A space that demystifies cooking on a budget
  • Part of a behavior change — that being some type of change in their eating habits  (This is public health speak and I’m not too familiar with how to express this)

The Full-Fledged Version {My pie-in-the-sky version}

A website that houses healthy, budget-conscious recipes designed for low-income/SNAP populations and a complementary SMS service that texts short tips/recipes/links to longer recipes.

The website will include:

  1.  Space to sign up for a SMS and email service where users can get recipes, cooking and healthier eating tips texted or emailed to their mobile phones or other digital devices
  2. A fully-functional SMS healthy recipe service
  3. A recipe database with an option for the user to create his/her own list of favorite recipes
  4. A tool where users can assemble a grocery list of needed items (this will automatically populate when the user selects a recipe)
  5. A Google search bar (to search recipes)
  6. A set of YouTube instructional videos – This will include a welcome video, but I also imagine adding a series of short cooking and healthy eating video tips
  7. Food/shopping/ingredient resources in NYC  and online –I don not want to focus solely on SNAP resources because I don’t want to isolate non-SNAP users for using the tool. For example, I can include a map of farmer’s markets, Health Buck info (this is a program to encourage SNAP users to shop at farmer’s markets), information about seasonal vegetables, a list of online sites that sell discount or bulk ingredients such as spices, etc.
  8. A message board or feedback form where users can comment on recipes and make site suggestions

The success of this tool is based on my ability to partner with at least one established food-based non-profit in NYC and, depending on the non-profits cooking and nutrition expertise, a cooking program (such as the Culinary Arts program at Kingsborough or the Natural Gourmet Institute) or a private chef who is willing to donate his/her time and expertise.

And since this is pie-in-the-sky, I wonder if I would need to offer the site and text messages in language(s) other than English.

Timeline & Skills Needed

Pre-work: [2 – 3 months, though some of this, especially the marketing/branding, will be completed at the same time at the tool development]

  • Conduct at least one focus group to assess community needs — I would ask questions such as: the types of recipes users want to see, the types of available kitchen equipment, the availability of certain products, users’ familiarity with (and access to) technology (smart phones, internet access at home, etc.)
  • Develop relationship with non-profit and cooking school/chef
  • Begin to develop a bank of recipes and healthy eating/cooking tips
  • Develop some type of branding for website – name/logo!
  • Initial development of marketing materials

Tool-development: [5 – 6 months]

  • Pilot tool with SMS service: Use Twilio or SimplyCast. Will need to purchase a phone number and pay for texting services (both sites do have a free trial)
  • Test SMS tool/make adjustments
  • Build website: Use WordPress and pay to self-host. Can use a site such as Bluehost to do this ($3.95/month); Can use plug-ins for food blogs such as: Recipe Card or EasyRecipe
  • Make YouTube videos: Use smartphone (to make them) and iMovie (to edit them)
  • Add email function: can use SimplyCast

Post-work: 1 – 2 months

  • Focus groups to understand what’s working, what is not working and what is missing

The Stripped-Down Version

The stripped-down version is the creation of a SMS service that sends short recipes (5 ingredients or less) and healthy eating/cooking tips to recipients via text messages. It will use hyperlinks (via a URL shortening service like ) to send longer recipes to recipients (for ease of use and aesthetic purposes). These links will direct to an initial WordPress site (or maybe a Google Doc?) that will be developed into a full-scale website at a later date. I imagine adding a survey to the site or a comment plug-in in order to get feedback on how users like the SMS tool.

This initial WordPress site will house one YouTube video that talks about the tool I’m creating and how to use the SMS tool (the first welcome text will direct the user here) and a beginning recipe database. I will use iMovie to create this video.

Timeline & Skills Needed

This is do-able in a semester. I will need to learn how to use Twilio and expand my WordPress skills (which I’m pretty sure I can do using online tutorials). I will also need to learn how to use iMovie to create the welcome video. Ideally I would need at least one person to help me record the movie. For this portion of the project I can create content for short recipes and healthy eating/cooking tips. I will also need to create relationships with NYC food-based/hunger/food insecurity/social service organizations through which I can market the tool (I already have a few, but will need more).


Proposal #2: Web and Mobile Technology and Marketing Classes for Small Business Owners and Emerging Entrepreneurs


While working with entrepreneurs who want to build or expand their small businesses, I realized that they often lack technological and marketing skills. Entrepreneurs develop great products, but are struggling with how to use social media and to promote their business and how to establish an online (web) presence for their business. There are a growing number of organizations whose focus is to foster the development of small businesses through micro-lending, business and marketing classes and other types of support.

My plan is to develop a set of classes for small-business owners. I will also develop an instructional portal that will house a set of instructional videos and ‘how-to’ instructions on topics covered in these classes.


Newbie Nelly and her friend Janice are creating a line of organic shea butter-based body care products. This summer they will begin selling their products at local craft shows and farmers’ markets. However, Nelly and Janice do not have a clear idea how to market their business. They see how other small businesses market themselves using Twitter and Facebook—but the pair knows they are not marketing experts, nor are they comfortable using social media. Nelly and Janice understand that in order to create a successful business they will need to acquire these skills—as they don’t have the budget to hire a marketing consultant.

Seasoned Saul has owned a successful cheesecake business for the past five years. Word-of-mouth advertising has generated most of Saul’s business—as his church congregation and past customers have been fervent supporters of his tasty treats. However, recently Sal has realized he is not attracting new business. He wants to continue to grow his business—as he dreams of opening a storefront in his neighborhood. Several of his friends have suggested Saul start an online fundraising site to raise money to expand this business.

Popping Penny is a retired teacher with a passion for food—and started an ice pop business soon after she retired. Penny has a growing business and has been successfully selling her pops at pop-up markets and festivals. Penny has always wanted to sell her pops in retail locations and she recently found a co-packer who will make and package her pops for retail distribution. As Penny begins to approach potential customers she wants to make sure she has a sound online brand presence. Her friend designed a website for her when she started her business, but Penny hasn’t updated the site since.

First-Loan Lenny has just received a micro-loan for his budding laundry service. The organization Lenny is working with offers a set of classes that teach entrepreneurs business acumen. But Lenny wants to further develop his marketing skills—and he is searching for a tool that will meet his needs. Lenny is an adept social media user and is especially interested in leaning how he can use these social tools to market his business.

Use Case Scenario

Nelly, Saul, Penny, Lenny and others would find this tool:

  • At a organization that works with entrepreneurs/does micro-lending — Lenny finds it at the organization that is financing his micro-loan
  • At a local business development organization, Chamber of Commerce, organization that works with women, minorities or immigrants — Penny finds it when she attends a meeting for Latino/a entrepreneurs
  • At a craft’s fair, farmer’s market or pop-up market — Nelly finds it when she and Janice attend one of their first markets
  • At an incubator or shared kitchen space — Saul finds it at a local food incubator where he rents space to bake his cheesecakes
  • At a community college or community school
  • Word-of-mouth advertising (talking to other entrepreneurs)

They will use this tool:

  • To market their businesses
  • To connect with potential and current customers
  • To establish or increase brand awareness

Full-fledged Version

My plan is to build a set of web and mobile technology classes targeted to help small business owners build, market and grow their businesses. I envision partnering with an established micro-lending organization and co-hosting these classes with them. This partnership should be able to provide me with space to host my classes and audience to whom I can market them.

Classes will need to be affordable/free as small business owners often do not have excess capital to pay for expensive trainings. I’ll also have to think about the language these classes are being taught it — and if I’m isolating a population by only offering them in English.

The topics these classes will highlight include:

  • Website development: finding a web-hosting site, choosing and registering a domain name, building the site, blogging
  • Social media skills: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.
  • Email marketing
  • Online fundraising platforms: Kickstarter, GoFundMe
  • How to sell my product online: Etsy
  • How to take great digital pictures
  • How to create YouTube videos
  • How to start a food blog
  • Maybe LinkedIn?

I will also build an online repository that will hold instruction manuals for these skills and short educational YouTube videos that also provide instructions.

Timeline & Skills

I envision my timeline for this project to look something like:

Step #1: Class Development (many of these tasks will be happening simultaneously)

  • Develop training modules for each class
  • Secure space and organizational partnerships for classes
  • Recruit other subject experts as trainers
  • Market events
  • Obtain feedback/evaluate classes
  • Develop additional classes or re-develop existing classes after receiving feedback

While I am familiar with many of these tools, I haven’t formally taught others how to use them. I envision class development as the most time consuming part of the project. I also will need to become more familiar with Facebook as I don’t use it and develop my WordPress skills. I believe I can get a set of five classes up and running in a period of five to six months.

Step #2: Online Portal/Repository Development

I envision this as the second step of my project, after I’ve established a viable technology and marketing class series. I want to develop this portal for two reasons: to reach small business owners who are not located in NYC or cannot take these classes AND as a reference tool for small business owners who have already taken these classes.

I can make this portal using WordPress or maybe with Omeka. I will want to self-host a site on one of the two platforms and will need to consider the cost of doing so. No matter which site I choose, I will need to acquire additional skills. I will use iMovie and YouTube to create instructional videos to post on the site. As I stated in my first proposal, I will need to learn how to use iMovie.

Stripped-down Version

This will be a pilot class. I will run one class (I’m thinking two or three times) and ask for feedback from participants. This class will be a general class that covers how technology can help small business owners market and grow their businesses.

Timeline & Skills

I can do this in approximately 3 — 4 months. The greatest skill I will need is to learn how to best develop a class that teaches people how to use technology–I’ve never done this before. I will also need to find a place to host the classes and market them.


Project ideas: Rachel

Project ideas: there are several and they are a bit scattered, but this is where I am right now…

*Develop a digital repository (collective space) for sociological information for GC students

Problem: Lack of institutional memory for Sociology theory exam and orals lists. In Sociology, we have two exams: a written theory exam most of us take after our first or second year and a set of 3 oral exams. When I first started in the program, students had to take two theory exams: a classical and a contemporary exam. A file of notes from 10+ years was passed around to some students (via older cohorts). We now take only one exam and the old set of notes is no longer relevant. In addition, most students in their third or fourth years take their oral exams. The department has two binders full of past orals lists–however, the binders are messy, pages are often missing, and they are not accessible to all students (need to be at the GC during ‘business hours’ to read/copy them). The binders are also not updated—there are more old(er) lists than current one. Creation: To create a digital repository for all this information. New theory exam notes/orals lists can be uploaded and accessed by all GC sociology students (maybe make this public?). I image orals lists separated by topic and committee member and theory exam materials separated in a similar manner. There will also be a space for dialogue–where students can ask questions about the exam or orals. Two preliminary questions — who is going to monitor this from year to year and how do we get students to contribute? —>Do I make this into a bigger space for collaboration with other students outside of CUNY? Are students in other programs looking for a tool like this?

*Twitter data mining project to help me investigate how Twitter can be used as a productive space for social movements. Use Twitter API. Thinking specifically about trans* communities/murders of trans* women of color and/or Michael Brown/Eric Gardner/police violence against non-white communities. I’m specifically thinking about mining for hashtags, like  #allblacklivesmatter or #blacklivesmatter.

*Create an (interactive) mapping project that maps NYC supermarkets/bodegas/other retail food outlets and subway/bus stops–creating a product that is accessible & available for people to add items. A take off on http://veganfoodiseverywhere.com….but different, as this will be localized to NY and also map public transportation. What I like about the vegan website is that anyone can add a dish to the map.

*Develop an app that provides recipes for healthy meals for low-income communities. A take off on what eatfresh.org is doing in California–texting recipes to people (and these are recipes that can be cooked on a stove or on a hotpot). Maybe work with NYC Common Food Pantry to get recipes?

*Develop a set of technology classes for small business owners: twitter, website, blog/wiki development. I know this is needed as many of the small business owners at the Intersect Fund needed this type of help. I found that people often have a product/service/idea to sell, but they need help marketing their brand/events/etc.

*Develop a model for an online conference. I can’t remember where I read about this–only that one academic professional organization was thinking about doing this because the theme of their conference was the environment and they conference organizer wanted to reduce conference attendees’ carbon footprint. Why I like this: ASA (sociology’s annual shin dig) has  (recently) received criticism from members for a variety of reasons including cost, location and timing. While I cannot imagine making a digital ASA, I do wonder if a small-scale conference could effectively be hosted in a virtual space. Creating a virtual conference space is not an in-person conference space–but there are benefits: a more global participation/flow of information and fewer or low costs for participants. I’m not exactly sure what a space like this would look like. Would there be google hangouts? Videos of work(s)? Tweets/hashtags for comments?