Final Project Proposal – Food Security Game

Stephen Suen
Mary Delaney
(…looking for more! A digital game may be out of scope for a team of two)

Economic circumstances/challenges of those faced with food insecurity and how that affects other aspects of their lives (e.g. health/nutrition)

To increase awareness and empathy around the issue of food security
To educate the food insecure on how to make better dietary choices within their economic means

Web-based digital game, in the vein of “empathy simulators” like Cart Life or Depression Quest


Our initial story pitch is based on this article from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, which took dietary intake data from the 2003-10 waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and measured it against the Healthy Eating Index, a measurement of how closely one’s diet conforms to recommended daily intake. This analysis specifically focuses on SNAP participants, who are lagging behind in multiple HEI components (notably fruit and vegetables) compared to other Americans.


In addition to these findings, the article explains how this different in dietary consumption is having real effects on SNAP participants’ health — adults enrolled in SNAP are “more likely to be overweight and suffer from diet-related health problems.” To summarize: The data say that low-income Americans are unable to eat healthy due to price, access, and storage concerns. We want to tell this story because food security is a struggle for so many people but is not tangibly understood by those not affected by it.

Expanding the story beyond the initial article, there are a number of things we could do with the data:

  • Recreate the HEI analysis using the most up-to-date NHANES data
  • Facet NHANES data by other dimensions (e.g. geography, specific income brackets) to make the game even more personal/relatable
  • Combine other USDA data sets, such as Food CPI or the Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database to relate the HEI components to actual prices

More brainstorming will have to be done in terms of the actual game mechanics to determine what data sets might be pertinent to the final product.

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