Biomimicry is the practice of looking to nature to solve human problems. Biomimicry for Social Innovation is an independent study course comprised of Social Design students looking to merge human-centered design and biomimicry processes as a tool to promote equity.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, major disruptions occurred in the food system, exacerbating issues of food access around the world. Emergency responders worked overtime to coordinate assistance for food insecure communities. At the same time, grassroots efforts joined in an attempt to bridge the widening gap between food availability and food recovery. Still, challenges to align these efforts made it apparent there is a systemic issue of resource distribution and communication. In close partnership with the Baltimore Office of Sustainability (BOS), we wanted to understand how a resilient food system would recover from these disruptions. 
Understanding this context led to the development of the design challenge:
How might we cultivate a more connected and responsive food system network to ensure food access during times of crisis?
Through learning about the symbiotic relationship between trees and mycelium networks. The relationship facilitates communication and nutrient flow among trees, while the trees in turn provide sugar to mycelium. This exchange makes it possible for hub trees to nourish young saplings and demonstrates a unique way of staying connected despite ‘social isolation’. We translated this natural inspiration to design an interconnected food distribution infrastructure.
MyOak Public Market is an online platform designed to increase food access to vulnerable populations by diversifying the distribution of resources to community hubs and individuals. Vendors are provided a low-risk platform to an expanded customer base. Reciprocally, customers can access this variety of products regardless of physical proximity, income, or telecommunication capability. By cultivating new connections and aggregating valuable user data, MyOak Public Market simultaneously strengthens the resiliency of the Baltimore food system to face any crisis.
BioMICANS (Project Team)
Judy Chen, Hanah Murphy, Eunsoo Kim, Eesha Patne, Sasha Avrutina
External PartnersAnne Draddy, Sustainability Coordinator, BOS
Ava Richardson, Food Matters Technical Advisor, BOS
Expert Mentors
Anthropologist-in-residence

Nichole Labruto, Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate Director, Hopkins Ecological Design Initiative
Mycologist-in-residence
Robin Gunkel, Ph.D. candidate in Sustainabilty Education
Biologist-in-residence
Bill Hillgartner, Paleocologist, MICA, JHU
This project was completed as part of a submission to the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. The project was completed between February 2020 - June 2020.

This video was shared as part of Earth Day Birthday; a virtual event the Baltimore Office of Sustainability hosted Earth Day 2020 sharing all things related to nature in Baltimore. 

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