Fall 2021

Project Overview
Urban Food Systems
Community Building
Dirty Food Days (DFD) is a project from my master's Social Design Lab. It is a collaboration between myself, Olivia Goonatillake, Kyra Scarlett, and Elizabeth Finley. Our goal was to create a call to action to eat more seasonal, locally grown foods to combat the damage to people and planet alike created by the globalized food trade.

The project was two fold. The first part involved creating a bold marketing campaign, playing on the term "dirty food" to draw attention to the fact that foods often lauded as being healthy or "clean" have dire effects on planetary health. The second part was creating a conceptual community-oriented app to provide a digital space for organizing Dirty Food Days. The idea is that at some sort of regular cadence, such as once a month, people would be able to organize with others in their community and engage in food practices that would offer alternatives to eating a meal from a chain grocery store.

While much of the work for this project was shared with my collaborators, my primary role was designing the UI for the concept DFD app, creating the campaign website for data collection, and helping to ideate on the content for the campaign posters.
Western food culture, particular that encompasses by the wellness industry, has often been guilty of white-washing traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and foods to cultivate a story of “exotic” appeal. Oftentimes foods that have been consumed by indigenous groups around the world are marketed as new, taken out of the cultural and geographical contexts from which they originated, and sold at a markup on the  other side of the world. This is fundamentally an issue, as the popular image of food and health is being tied to a model that is inherently socioeconomically prohibitive and damaging to the environment

In our research, we were heavily inspired by native Americans of the Great Plains region of the United States, in particular the Lakota. The Lakota ideals of feminine sexuality and the characterization of Earth as a matriarchal figure also emphasize seasonality as it relates to the female body. The suppression of expression and exploitation of the female body parallels the destruction of the planet for profit in many ways. Both are key elements of colonial attitudes which have given rise to unsustainable systems such as the global industrialized food system.

Making "clean" eating dirty

Knowing that we wanted the project to focus on seasonality in a way that explicitly challenge these distorted definitions of healthy eating, I lead our group in one of my favorite design exercises, “Crazy 8’s.” Folding a piece of paper into 8 sections, each person has 1 minute per section to come up with a design idea. Out of this brainstorming session we came up with the idea for a campaign to turn over the idea of “clean” foods. The campaign would be called Dirty Food Days, and would be a call to action to bring together communities to host regular events that give the opportunity to try and learn about local, seasonal foods that might not otherwise be accessible. By calling these foods “dirty,” we challenge the colonial ideals of cleanliness and health and invite participants to regain touch with the land on which they live. To start, we would test this idea in our local city of Edinburgh. We researched which foods were most commonly produced locally in Scotland; these would be the stars of our campaign.


designing a marketing campaign

The sexualization of feminine bodies is a common tactic used in product marketing campaigns.The vast majority of these marketing campaigns use this tactic to pique interest and subsequently convince people to buy a product they don’t need, probably using money they don’t have. Taking lessons from eco-feminism and the role of femininity in Lakota attitudes towards nature and food practices, we wanted to reclaim the narrative surrounding feminine bodies by utilizing this traditionally capitalist tool to attract attention to our proposed social change.The poster campaign represented the globalized foods through visuals that invoked sterility; cleaning gloves, tight plastic wrap. The local Scottish foods were represented as dirty, utilizing feminine sexuality as a means of reclaiming the connection between women and their history as foragers, providers, and preparers of food. 

We created 11 total designs and pasted them throughout Edinburgh in highly visible public spaces. Each poster contained a QR code which led them to a simple website that I designed and created under the name “Serving UpScotland.” Depending on what foods were highlighted in any given poster, the QR code would take the viewer to a specific page of the site corresponding to thatFood.

Test site: serving up Scotland

For posters that highlighted globalized “clean” food, the ‘Serving Up Scotland’  site presents a summary of the negative effects of importing that food to the UK.As a follow up, there is a section about "How You Can Help Fix It" that detailed a list of locally-available foods that satisfying different needs based on dimensions such as nutrition, taste, or cooking purpose.On the home page of the site, we introduce the concept of Dirty Foods and the inspiration from indigenous communities in North America and Australia, explaining the larger purpose for the project.Over the course of the week, each of our group members took time to observe the locations where we had placed our posters, and we noticed multiple occasions where viewers were actively looking at the posters with curiosity and amusement. We were pleased to see the marketing campaign attracted attention as intended.

user survey

In addition to the local test campaign, we sent out a survey across all of our respective social and professional networks to get a sense for how those located in other parts of the world might apply the Dirty Food Model where they live and what limitations they might be experiencing.

In summary, our results indicated there is a general willingness to live a lifestyle more in touch with food origins and providers. However, participants also admitted concern about a lack of knowledge about dirty foods and food providers within the context of their community, which serves as a barrier.



The final iteration of our campaign is an informational website that can be used as a tool to connect people with information about seasonal foods, providers, and events in their community. I was the primary designer for the mobile site, creating the mockups, visual design, and interactive Figma prototype. There are 5 main components to the site that are scoped specifically to the location, by zip code, that the site visitor has provided:


Looking forward

Our hope is that the Dirty Food campaign will serve as a kick starter for a larger social movement. Overtime, the term "Dirty Food"would be disassociated from the official project and become a socially ubiquitous term and form of pro-environmental action, like Meatless Mondays. Over time, "Meatless Mondays" became a part of the larger global vocabulary, with many people knowing and practicing the concept without awareness of the initial official campaign and organizations behind it .The goal is that via marketing and collaboration with official organizations, something like "Dirty Foods" can enter the larger social vernacular, becoming a concept and form of action beyond the bounds of our campaign. Overall, this project was a great opportunity to learn more about these practices and how arrangements can be interrogated to generate positive behavioral change. We were certainly challenged, with key difficulties being as follows:


No members of our group are part of an Indigenous community. We acknowledge our inherently limited viewpoint of understanding issues effecting Indigenous communities and how these constraints may hinder our comprehension. While we strived to draw on accurate research and avoid the appropriation of Indigenous cultures, we are aware of our limitations. Thus, our project would inherently benefit from discussion and active participation from members of Indigenous communities.


Large scale factors such as the climate crisis, created temporal issues when identifying, producing, and enacting an intervention within a few short weeks. Furthermore, we spent a great deal of time at the beginning of the project conducting research, which gave us a strong basis for informing our intervention but limited our ability to create and test prototypes. The latter half of the semester proved to be strenuous, as our overburdened workloads conflicted with the time we dedicated to Dirty Food


As we are all international students, we lacked local knowledge of the Scotland, and more broadly the UK. Ideally, we wanted to prototype Dirty Food within our local community but found our lack of local knowledge a challenge.We do not have an understanding of the local food systems, outside of what we could reasonably research.