A nectar droplet.

EBT Food App

Black Nectar
UX Researcher + Designer
Time to read
4 mins

I worked with Black Source on the second design iteration of mobile app Black Nectar. This app helps users find stores and locations that accept government-assisted food vouchers. Created in Southern California.

Nectar App logo.


How does a new user get help with their EBT benefits, using a system mired with social stigma?


Design a digital platform that helps users find places they can use their CalFresh card.

More about EBT in California

The Golden State Advantage card is California’s EBT card.

EBT = electronic benefits transfer.

EBT card = a card that looks and works like a debit or credit card but is loaded with food stamps (also known as SNAP benefits) and/or cash benefits. You can use it at stores that accept EBT.
– The Providers
An example of California’s EBT Card

Social Security and Social Disability can supplement eligible participants cash for food credit.In the state of California, the system is unique that these systems automatically disqualify you for CalFresh help.


Prior to my joining, another UX Designer had done a first round of research. In this round, the team had learned:

• A significant amount of students were on
• Many working families were on CalFresh
• Many users felt embarrassed and kept their situation to themselves — shutting themselves off from help.

A photo taken on the field, as we researched and interviewed customers at a local Farmer’s Market.

We went on a field study to a farmers’ market, and spoke with vendors and customers using EBT as currency. We learned about CalFresh bonus points. Additionally, we saw that most of the customers learned about this program through walking by or word of mouth.

Subject Matter Experts

I reached out to Hunger Action Los Angeles, an organization dedicated towards providing nutritional food for all. They provided us with more background about how the system currently works in Los Angeles, CA. Additionally, they connected us to folks at DPSS to learn how we could partner.


We recruited for a new round of interviewees — a mix of DPSS beneficiaries, or those worked with EBT cards.

Examples of real people who have used EBT in the past.

These insights show that all these users would have benefited from outside support, beyond the overly stretched out DPSS workers.

Competitive and Comparative Analysis​​​​​​​

I conducted a C+C to assess how other government-led and private companies were approaching this problem.

There was a gap between seeing how much benefits you had, understanding the different types, and finding places to use your card.

A spreadsheet that compares different apps that work with EBT cards.
From formulating our personas, I wanted to pinpoint the pain-points of finding food on EBT.

User Journey Map

I drafted a user journey map to go more into depth about the pain-points of someone trying to find where to get food with their CalFresh card.

User journey map of someone trying to find groceries with their EBT card.
The common frustrations we found were lack of instructions of what to do, and where to retrieve information.
Photo of a brainstorming session.
An example here featuring the Harry Potter spinoff, Fantastic Beasts, created into a VR experience. This experience was released shortly around the time of this project’s timeframe.


We assessed through card sorting and interviews the information architecture of the app.

A photo of a card sorting session with a user

Resulting sitemap:

Sitemap of the native app.

From here I created a User Flow to better empathize with how the user would use the app to find food.While the Calfresh/EBT experience can be riddled with red tape, we wished to create a friendly and simple experience.

Userflow of someone opening the app for the first time.

Once I had this iteration of user flows, I could move into the UI.


Photos of different actual users using the Hololens.

Android UI Mockups

According to the Department of Social Services (DPSS), 96% of those on Calfresh have a smart phone.

From 2010–2016, CalFresh program has seen a 110% increase.

Screenshots of finding shops, markets, or stores near you that take EBT.Screenshots of getting directions to a given store.

Tablet UI Mockups

Tablet UI of the app.

Connect with me

Email me: courttan@gmail.com

All rights reserved Courtney Taniguchi 2021-22.