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The Global Food Waste Epidemic Addressing the Problem at the Household Level Parsons the New School for Design

R&D Advanced Methods

Final Project

Spring 2014

Report & Presentation by Anne Chen

Final Project Presentation Typical User Journey Map Research Frame Our Approach Know People: User Personas Explore Concepts: Solution Ideation Frame Insights: Position Map Our Findings Observatons: Main Objectives Key Insights: in the Home Key Insights: at the Store Interviews: Main Objectives Key Insights: Variability Key Insights: Reasons for Household Food Waste Our Solution The App Other Possible Changes Final Research Method: Self-Probe Our Promotions

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Table of Contents


Personal Appendix Project Reflections Research Topic Selection Research Methods Research Process Team Dynamics Solution Reflections Preliminary Project Deliverables Project Research Frame Group Progress Report Raw Research Obervation Summary Photos: Mother Cooking a Dinner Photos: Parents After a CostCo Trip Inteview Summary Interview Question Guideline Interview Transcripts Interview with Mom Interview with Sister

Table of Contents


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Final Group Presentation

Research & Development Advanced Methods Spring 2014


Anne Chen Daniela Lara Harry He





Why [Global Food Waste]? micro- and macro-level consequences

We believe...


Who [Would Use Our Solution]?



American households

“The biggest issues in society - from obesity to climate change - are due to behavioural and lifestyle risk factors that people embrace on a daily basis.� - The Behavioural Design Lab

What [Behavior Are We Seeking to Change]? food wasteful ones on the household level

Where [Would Our Target Market Use Our Solution]? everywhere - particularly the home and grocery stores

When [Can They Access It]? 24/7

How [Will It Be Introduced and Implemented]? a mobile App and complimentary products Source:


Research Frame

Our Approach Preliminary Brainstorming KnowPeople: User Journey, User Personas Explore Concepts: Solution Ideation Frame Insights: Position Map The Process We allocated preliminary research to the first few weeks, such that team members could familiarize themselves with food waste as both a global crisis as well as something US households face on a daily basis. Each member was then responsible for collecting two interviews and approximately 3.5 hours of observation by May 30th. This allowed us, armed with our research findings, to focus on developing and designing our actual solution during the remaining weeks, and then test our prototype with an actual user via a self-probe.

Research Methodologies Observations (10 hours) Interviews (6) Self-Probe


Know People: User Personas Cynthia, 24

General User Groups bloggers housewives entrepreneurs divorced individuals health/food enthusiasts

Occupation: Art Director Residence: Brooklyn (with a roommate) Key Attributes: reliance on family for income, early career, budget constrained, social, image-conscious

single mothers athletes/trainers working parents university students young, married couples

Adrian & Alejandra Arias, 31 & 27 Occupation: Entrepreneur & Lawyer Residence: Miami Key Attributes: early careers, budget-constrained,, family planning, busy, social, Latin roots, collaborative

General User Attributes avid cooks tech-savvy busy & active urban or rural

health-conscious budget-conscious sustainable/environmental various ethnic backgrounds

Andres, 32 Occupation: Actor / Freelance Translator Residence: East Village (alone) Key Attributes: well-educated, budget-conscious, foodie, social, style- and health-conscious


Preliminary Brainstorming: Know People

Explore Concepts: Solution Ideation Design Inspirations ●  ● 

existing mobile Apps which aid users’ handling of food (i.e. shopping, kitchen organization, meal planning, recipes, etc.) existing products that are management, tracking, etc. tools

Key Insights

LeftOverSwap “Snap a picture of what you can’t eat, name it, and share the est of your meal.”

Apps must be user-friendly. ●  ●  ● 

easy navigation visually engaging profile customization

Love Food, Hate Waste “...allows you to easily keep track of food planning, shopping, cooking meals, and making the most of leftovers.”

Products can be technologically advanced or simple. ●  ● 

electronic sensors, “smart” fridges, etc. simple storage containers, removable racks, etc.

Plastic Analog-Digital Converter Sensors are placed on food packages and monitor the contents acidity level. The circuit could read with a scanner or mobile phone to show freshness or whether food’s fully defrosted.


Snapware Mods Cheap, durable, and available in a variety of sizes and shapes, these Mods also have gasket-lids to provide for secure sealment.

Preliminary Brainstorming: Explore Concepts

Frame Insights: Position Map The Variables ●  ●  ● 

food’s expiration date how frequently it’s used how frequently it’s purchased

Goal This approach to a Position Map allows us to quickly discern which food products to particularly target and address in our design solution.


Preliminary Brainstorming: Frame Insights

Our Findings

The Process After members completed their observational hours and interviews, results were shared in order to discover overlaps and uncover overall key research insights.


Observations: Main Objectives Locations

Anne ●  ●  ● 

How does a suburban couple handle purchased groceries after a shopping trip? How does a housewife with limited ingredients prepare a dinner? What are the behaviors of suburban grocery shoppers?

Daniela ●  ● 

How does the type of grocery store affect urban shoppers’ behavior? How does an individual with special dietary needs handle grocery shopping?

Harry ●  ● 

What are the pre-grocery shopping considerations of urban consumers? How do urban consumers feel about food products, packaging, and the overall grocery shopping experience? 9

suburban home A&P (New Jersey)

Trader Joes Whole Foods Fairway Market

Trader Joes Whole Foods

Research Methodologies: Observation

Key Insights: in the Home Cooking a Dinner ●  ●  ●  ● 

prioritizing soon-to-expire foods portions saved for following days frequency of use ~ availability of ingredient cooking proficiency ~ ability to utilize resources

After a Grocery Trip ●  ●  ● 

foods consumed daily are bought in bulk foods that need to be refrigerated are stored first simultaneous handling of storing / discarding food


Research Methodologies: Observation

Key Insights: at the Store Store selection is influenced by… ●  need ●  location ●  occasion ●  price-tier / format ●  merchandise assortment Produce selection is influenced by... ●  price ●  brand ●  organic / nonorganic ●  aesthetics / size / shape ← how fresh are Trader Joes’ chicken breasts?

busy shoppers at Whole Foods Market

Shoppers are trying to just focus on what they need... ●  pre-trip planning ●  careful product analysis ●  utilization of technology ...But stores want them to spend more money. ●  samples ●  aisle arrangement ●  bright colors ●  deceptive packaging ●  2-for-1 deals ●  intoxicating bakery smells ●  receipt coupons ●  increased shopping cart size ●  related products ●  eye-level & kid-level shelving ●  checkout snacks ● fruits at the front, staples in the back the familiar “BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE” trap


unpurchased, “ugly” produce goes to waste

Research Methodologies: Observation

Interviews: Main Objectives Topics: Going in with Assumptions & Solution Ideas in Mind Grocery Shopping



mother (suburban housewife) sister (student living with boyfriend and his parents)

Hypothesis Question: Do behaviors during actual food purchasing impact food wastefulness? Solution Question: How can grocery retailers be included in our solution?

Eating Out Hypothesis Question: Is there a relationship between eating out behaviors and food wastefulness? Solution Question: What role can left-over utilization play in addressing the problem?

Cooking Hypothesis Question: Do behaviors in the kitchen influence wastefulness? Solution Question: Can building culinary knowledge be part of the solution?

Storage / Management Hypothesis Question: Does better overall kitchen organization result in food waste reductions? Solution Question: Will there be a need to introduce / redesign products to compliment our App?

Daniela Trader Joes Whole Foods Fairway Market


Diet / Health Hypothesis Question: Are more health-conscious individuals less wasteful? Solution Question: Will our App require feature for diet / lifestyle maintenance?

Trader Joes Whole Foods

Food Waste Knowledge Hypothesis Question: Does awareness of the food waste crisis actually result in less wasteful behaviors? Solution Question: Is an educational component sufficient enough to motivate people to be less wasteful?


Research Methodologies: Interview

Key Insights: Variability

Food Insecurity in the United States

Between & Within Households ●  ●  ●  ●  ●  ● 

gender: men vs. women location: urban vs. rural household size / composition income: stable vs. budget-constrained generation: Millennials vs. older demographics cultural background: developed vs. undeveloped country

Individual Traits ●  ●  ●  ● 

lifestyle / schedules cooking proficiency food waste crisis awareness level special diets / degree of health-consciousness

Source: Column Five Media


Research Methodologies: Interview

Key Insights: Reasons for Household Food Waste ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

general unconcern / too busy lack of pre-purchase planning food not being consumed in time too much food being cooked / served limited knowledge / lack of awareness the wrong interpretation of food label wording consumers’ tendency to select food products with a longer remaining shelf life


Food Waste for Family of Four (~122 lb / month)


Research Methodologies: Interview

Our Solution A Holistic Approach Our solution is App-based - introducing a user-friendly, mobile application which has these prominent features: ●  discovery: recipes, restaurants, etc. ●  conversion: equating food waste with money ●  community: recipe-sharing, local agendas, etc. ●  education: on food waste, health, food labeling, etc. ●  reminders: notifications of when food will expire, new product updates, etc. ●  organization & management: meal planning, budgeting, shopping lists, etc. - but could also require changes in existing products / food labels, as well as the 15 introduction of new ones.

The App


Other Possible Changes label modifications

new products / product modifications


Final Research Method: Self Probe Summary Our App prototype was handed off to one of our friends, Ethan. We wanted to see how easily he could navigate through it - how understandable, user-friendly our design was. He was then asked if there were any features he felt were unnecessary, or if there were any user needs that our design didn’t address.

Results Positive Feedback ●  ●  ● 

simple, beautiful design / logo smart features: “At a Glance”, calculator needs addressed: community, recipe-finding, education

what we think users will do

what users actually do

Negative Feedback ●  ● 

unclear home page requires more seamless navigation bridging the gap


Research Methodologies: Self-Probe

Communicating Value to Our Customer

Save money. And the world.

Our Promotions

SAVED lets you make a real impact. On your wallet, and your total food waste output. Be part of the change. Download it now.



Personal Appendix

Research & Development Advanced Methods Spring 2014 21

Anne Chen

The Global Food Waste Epidemic


Project Reflections

Research Topic Selection Food waste is an issue which I’ve not learned about in many of my

Parsons classes, but also experienced and observed myself. As a current resident of New York City, I witness food wasteful behaviors on a daily basis - whether it is in grocery stores, restaurants, or even on the street - and also their consequences - such as sidewalks littered with trash, overflowing garbage cans, and the regular rat scuttling along subway tracks. And, as my fellow team members also shared similar experiences, and all of us need to deal with food on a daily basis, we felt that this issue was not only one which still lacks an effective solution, but one which resonated with each of us deeply.


Research Methods Our two main research methods were observations and interviews, which

we conducted first such that we’d know what knowledge gaps still needed to be filled before selecting the approach which would best address these holes as

our third method. Of course, we had to do preliminary research first, and we approached initial brainstorming by focusing our exploration on (a) our target user, and (b) our solution. The former involved researching typical U.S. household sizes and compositions; household behaviors which are related to food waste; and household mindsets which could influence how they perceive the global food waste crisis. The latter required looking at existing solutions - in the form of products sold by companies (i.e. mobile Apps), as well as behavioral practices utilized by consumers (i.e. using shopping lists, keeping track of monthly grocery spending, etc.). To help us prepare for our observations, interviews, and selfprobe, then, we applied methods we’d learned about earlier in the semester, and created a user journey map, user personas, a solution exploration, and a


position map. Such tools were especially helpful in the development of our interview question guideline.


Research Process The first group meeting was spent sharing each member’s sense intent

research. When the topic of food waste was introduced, we immediately all seemed to show great interest. The next week, then, focused on exploring our chosen topic, and establishing both a time line for the semester and the best modes of communication. Before diving into our actual research methods, we created a “Project Research Frame / Plan” and “Progress Report”, and these documents were vital in ensuring that we maintained focus and met deadlines throughout the semester. We realized early on that staying organized and establishing structure were of upmost importance, especially as our topic is very broad. We agreed that each member would be responsible for three interviews and approximately three and a half hours of observation, to be completed with people and at locations of their choosing. It was up to individual members how they’d choose to budget their time, but all research findings had to be shared by April 30th. We planned our weeks in this manner such that we’d have time to review each other’s work, share feedback, and develop a solution together. To make the assessment of other’s findings easier, we each shared our research in not only raw form (i.e. all notes taken during observations, full transcripts of interviews), but also in quick, one-page summaries which focused on key insights. Having the most significant discoveries captured in bulleted form allowed us to efficiently discern overlaps and curate our findings. As the end of the semester drew near, we divided up the work that remained as thus: Daniela, with her strong design skills, would focus on designing the actual App - which is the main part of our solution; Harry would then be responsible for creating mock-ups of complimentary solution pieces (i.e. product


label changes), leaving me free to develop a presentation that was both visually engaging and clearly explained our research to the class.


Team Dynamics The main challenge we faced during the first few weeks was effective

communication with one another; lack of prompt email responses and last-

minute sharing of individual work unfortunately resulted in one group member (myself) creating the first few assignments in their entirety. However, as the weeks progressed and I expressed my concern over our team’s poor collaboration, substantial improvements were made. To keep us all on the same page, I’d make weekly folders the main Google Drive folder for our group. Each folder would have an “Recap / To-Do” document, summarizing what we went over and discussed in class, and also listing each member’s responsibilities for the week and when deliverables were due. Members would upload their work for the week into the appropriate folder. I was especially pleased and impressed by Daniela’s contributions at the end of the project - she surprised us with a nearly complete mock-up of our App’s potential screens. She certainly took the initiative when it came to contributing to the group - Harry needed more nudging, but he was always prompt with email responses and confirming meeting availabilities.


Solution Reflections We’d initially planned to focus our solution on a mobile App, but research

throughout the semester revealed the importance of introducing other changes, whether they’re modifications to existing products and/or food

management tools, or conceptualizing entirely new ones. The idea of adding scales to garbage cans, for example, to calculate how much money a consumer is throwing away when he or she discards food, was an especially surprising one. I knew that equating food with dollars would be an important


element of our solution, but research also revealed consumers’ concern for health and education, as well as their desire for user-user collaboration, and so we were keen to also include features which facilitated overall lifestyle maintenance and community-sharing in our App.


Preliminary Project Deliverables Project Research Frame Group Progress Report


Food Waste: A Global Epidemic Addressing the Problem from the Bottom-Up Group 3 – Final Project Research Frame Why Food waste is a global issue, and its consequences include environmental degradation, poor health, and hunger. In more developed parts of the world, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, consumers haphazardly discard their food every day; meanwhile, in third world nations, such as those in Africa, a huge portion of the population goes days without a proper meal. Politicians, environmentalists, companies, and consumers alike thus have grown increasingly aware of these serious impacts, but an effective, systemic solution still does not exist. One main motivator for I. Description & Research Frame a consumer’s solution-seeking, for instance, is budget concerns. How often do we go to the grocery store, pile goods into the shopping cart, and whip out our credit cards, only to return home and realize that we didn’t need all this “stuff”? And then there’s the issue of dealing with expiration dates - remembering when we bought those eggs, for instance, - and making sure that our children don’t become part of the American obesity epidemic. Thus, there is a definite need for a well-designed answer - whether it is an actual product, a mobile App, or even a rethinking of the home (investigating the relationship between humans and spacial design) - for our world’s food waste crisis.

Who Although food waste is a global problem, our focus for this project will be the American consumer - that is, designing a solution that addresses all of their grocery-related concerns: buying, storing, organizing, cooking, and dealing with food. Household categories will include (i) singles; (ii) roommates / suitemates; (iii) single couples; and (iv) couples with children. It is important to note that locational differences - such as urban versus suburban households - will result in behavioral discrepancies. Grocery stores and food-product retailers, of various price-tiers, will also be interviewed, in order to capture their perspective on the food waste issue.

What The problem of food waste is especially prominent at the domestic level, where it is primarily caused by the incorrect ways we’re engaging in essential activities, from the moment of shopping in a store, to cooking and organizing our kitchens back home. Since 60% of the waste generated happens at the household level, it is a prime place to start. The main reasons for waste at this stratus include:


● ● ● ● ●

lack of or incorrect planning of purchases, which frequently leads to the purchase of excessive quantities of foods to take advantage of attractive and tempting promotional offers; limited knowledge of efficient food consumption and/or waste reduction methods (e.g., how to store / utilize leftovers, how to craft dishes from available ingredients, etc.); too much food being cooked, prepared, and served, thus producing so-called “leftovers,” which include foods “damaged” during cooking (e.g., burned food); food not being consumed in time: food and beverages are “thrown away” because they’ve exceeded the expiration date stated on their package, deteriorated, or no longer seem to be edible; misguided interpreting of the wording on the food label: for instance, it is particularly difficult to grasp the difference between the phrases “best if used by” (which relates to an evaluation of food quality) and “use by” (which refers to food safety), and this in turn influences purchasing decisions. the tendency to select, during purchasing, foods with a longer remaining shelf life - this contributes to an increase in unsold merchandise and, as a consequence, to the waste of food that would otherwise have been perfectly edible.1

Where We have decided to focus on food waste at the domestic consumption level in the United States. Some factors causing variability in the amount of waste generated at the household level include: ● family size and composition (adults waste more than children in absolute terms, and larger families waste less per person compared to smaller families) ● family income (food waste is occurs less frequently in low-income families) ● culture of origin (for example, in the United States, families of Hispanic origin waste 25% less than non-Hispanic families) ● seasonal nature of products (more is wasted in the summer than other seasons of the year) ● gender (women on average waste more than men).

When Our “product” will be used everyday by the users because we deal with food on an everyday basis - in order for people to keep track of what they’ve bought, eaten, and stored, they will require a solution which is accessible 24/7.

How A currently existing option which follows along the lines of our project’s trajectory is the UK’s Love Food Hate Waste promotional website and its complimentary App. The website informs people about the food waste problem in the UK and explains how to use the App. The App’s capabilities include assisting users food planning and shopping by keeping track of spending and consumption, and offering tips on how to utilize leftovers by including a library of tasty recipes.

1. "Food Waste: Causes, Impacts and Proposals." Barilla CFN. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.


II. Intent Statement We seek to provide American consumers with a convenient, affordable, and well-designed solution that addresses how they purchase, handle, consume, and discard their food. Whether the result is physical or digital in form, our answer will acknowledge the consumer’s attributes and existing behavioral tendencies. It will also account for lifestyle and demographic differences - such as variations in income, cuisine preferences, and so on. By interviewing different household categories, we will be able to make connections and utilize shared traits in order to develop a single solution that can be utilized by all household types. For our customer, then, they will be able to (i) save money; (ii) adopt a healthier lifestyle; and (iii) avoid dealing with stressful food-managing activities. More macroeconomic goals which we hope will be realized further down the road include (i) reducing landfill accumulation; (ii) educating the public about the food waste crisis; (iii) providing relief to starving nations; and (iv) improving the health of the American consumer market.


TENTATIVE SCHEDULE & RESEARCH METHODS Each member will conduct 2 interviews and approximately 3.5 hours of observation each. Anne plans to interview a single couple household and a four-person one with no children; Harry plans to interview his Sustainability professor as well as a single person living alone; Daniela plans to interview her Sustainability professor and a three-person suite. Each member will also visit a grocery store with a friend, to see the shopping behaviors of others. As a result, we will get various perspectives on the food waste issue – general consumers, experts, families, friends, strangers, etc. Finally, we’re thinking of opting for a survey as our third type of research method,



1 observation, 1 interview 1 observation, 1 interview


Raw Research Anne Chen


Observation Summary My hours of observation were covered at two different sites: a suburban home (parents, two-person household), and a suburban chain grocery store (A&P).

Suburban Home i. Observing How a Couple Stores Food After a Shopping Trip

My parents usually take a trip to Costco, a wholesale retailer, once every two weeks to do their bulk grocery shopping. This means that they’re purchasing foods which they typically eat on a daily basis - such as fruit (apples, berries, oranges, etc.), cereal, nuts, and some vegetables (such as spinach). Foods that are eaten less often (such ice cream) or expire quickly (such as milk, eggs, fish, etc.) are purchased on a more frequent basis and at specialty or closer stores. After they returned from one of these trips, I observed how they handled storing what they bought. The first items they put away were foods that needed to be refrigerated or frozen, such as fruits and yoghurt. Then, less perishable foods, such as granola bars, peanut butter, and bread, were dealt with. Interestingly, they would often simultaneously be throwing older items away, thus replacing them with the fresher produce they’d just purchased. Whether or not these older foods were still eatable or not didn’t seem to be a major concern.

ii. Observing a Housewife Handles Food When Cooking a Meal

My mother always cooks dinner on weekday evenings. She prepares food for herself and my father, but also stores some for my father’s lunch the following day. I asked if I could observe her during one of her cooking sessions, one which fell on a day when food supplies were running low. My intention was to see how she handled utilizing her limited resources. It certainly helped that my mother has always loved cooking - she thus can be quite inventive in the kitchen. She knows recipes by heart, and, as she and my father already have well-established dietary patterns - which fortunately align with one another’s - she didn’t seem to find it a great challenge to use the few ingredients that were in the kitchen. She decided to cook a typical, Beijing-style dish - it only required Chinese scallions (which she always has plenty of); mushrooms, onions, spinach, carrots, and other vegetables (which she figured she should get rid of anyway); soy sauce, vinegar, and seasonings (in other words, items which don’t expire); and noodles.

Suburban Chain Grocery Store At A&P, I sought to see what factors influence a grocery shopper’s behavior. First, I watched people navigate through the store in general, in order to get a feel for my environment, but then I chose to follow a particular consumer and shadowed her path. This gave me the opportunity to see how she reacted to in-store promotions, how much time she spent selecting items, and so on. I of course wanted to observe a shopper who was shopping for fruits and vegetables, so I began my “shadowing” at this part of the store…

Key Insights • • •

when it came to selecting fruits / vegetables, aesthetic quality (i.e. color, symmetry), size, and shape seemed to be very important susceptibility to promotions depends on (a) product type; (b) brand preference; (c) value of coupons; (d) discounted item’s characteristics promotional material and sale items are typically seen at the end of aisles and near check-out areas one popular type of promotion was the “BUY-ONE-GET-ONE-FREE


Observation Photos Mother Cooking Dinner


Parents After a CostCo Trip


Interview Summary For my two interviews, I had lovely conversations with my mother and my sister, both of whom reside in New Jersey. Immediately, as someone who presently lives in the city, I saw the differences between food consumption patterns of rural and urban residents. I also noticed variations between generations - with my sister, who falls into the Millennial category, being more careless with proper food disposal than my mother. Household size and composition - for my sister, four people (two couples, one American-born Chinese dating a Caucasian boy), and a French woman married to an Italian man; for my mother, two people (a woman from Taiwan and a man from China) - also impacted a home’s accumulated food waste. There were also differences between genders and cultural backgrounds. In short, women from older generations are more careful when it comes to both purchasing and disposing food than their male counterparts; in general, it seems that people from poorer nations - such as China - and were raised during periods of food scarcity are less wasteful when it comes to food, compared to individuals born and raised in countries that are especially focused on consumption - such as the United States.

Key Insights These variables heavily impact how wasteful an individual is when it comes to food. • • • •

culture generation gender residential setting

These variables heavily impact an individual’s food purchasing decisions, including what they end up buying, where they choose to shop, if they elect to go out to eat rather than buy groceries, and how much money they spend on groceries. • • • • •

aesthetic appearance budget considerations health concerns schedule (convenience, time) meal / special occasion

These insights relate to how people tend to perceive the global food waste crisis. • •

younger consumers appear to be more aware of the issue is a global phenomenon than older consumers, though this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be less wasteful overall, consumers can be better educated about the systemic nature of the problem

These insights relate to how a solution can be developed. • • • • •

the solution should have a strong educational component the solution should relate food with money the solution should include a “reminder” feature the solution will involve systemic changes - i.e. introducing not just an App, but also implementing complimentary products such as garbage cans with sensors, new labels on food, etc. the solution needs to be quickly understood by a new user and adopt to each user’s unique lifestyle


Interview Questions Guideline On grocery shopping: 1. Discuss your food purchasing patterns. o



o o

o o

How often do you shop for groceries?  dedicate a specific day of the week (i.e. weekends)  whenever you’re hungry Where do you shop for them? Physical store vs. online? Does it depend on:  what you need  what stores are nearby  stores’ coupons / weekly circular  your schedule for the day  other people’s grocery needs / input Do you plan ahead before shopping? If so, how carefully do you plan ahead?  budget considerations - i.e. do you set a monthly / weekly grocery budget  what you have vs. what you have • do you find yourself often buying things you already have? if so, what is your reasoning for doing so (i.e. laziness, prefer fresher products, etc.) • do you keep a careful, up-to-date inventory of what you have at home? if you had more time / better tools, would you be better at doing this? How much do you typically spend on groceries? Do you like to grocery shop? Or do you prefer sending someone else to do this for you? Do you use grocery lists? Do you find yourself often ‘adding’ things to your pre-made list when you’re actually in the store? Do you find yourself falling victim to impulse purchases? Do you think how hungry you are affects your grocery shopping behavior? Do you then try to avoid going to the store when you are hungry? When it comes to buying fresh produce - i.e. vegetables and fruit - how long does it take you select items? What variables factor into your decision (i.e. color, size, shape, etc.).

On eating out: 1. Discuss your eating out patterns. o o o o o

How often do you eat out? Where do you usually go? For what meals do you usually eat out for? Is this because of convenience, the development of routine, to get together with friends, etc.? Do you limit your eating out patterns for special occasions? What goes into your decision-making process when picking a restaurant?  occasion  budget  location’s menu  specific dietary needs (i.e. vegetarian)

On cooking: 1. Discuss how you handle planning, preparing, and cooking meals. o o o o

Do you know recipes by heart, use recipe books, online blogs, rely on others, etc.? Do you usually cook alone or find it a social activity? When do you usually cook (vs. getting take-out or going to a restaurant)? Do you prefer cooking your meals yourself or going out to eat? What variables may affect your choice?  location (i.e. city vs. suburbs)  convenience (i.e. time you have / schedule)  meal


o o

Why do you cook - to save money? To accommodate for you specific diet? Because you just enjoy it? How often do you cook?

On storage / organization / managing food: o




Do you find yourself frequently dealing with leftovers? Why do you think this is?  laziness (“let it sit in the fridge…”)  forgetfulness (i.e. forgot you ate out and had leftovers)  ‘hoarding’ rationale (“…I’ll eat it eventually”) Do you organize your fridge? How often?  If yes - why? Do you think you could organize it better? Do you think your fridge could be designed better to assist you in your organizations? If so, what features would you add / edit / remove / change?  If no - why? Is it because you just don’t want to? Or because your fridge’s design makes organization too difficult and/or a timely activity? How do you organize your food in your overall kitchen setting? Do you think the design of the kitchen itself can better assist you in organization? Consider  labelling  expiration dates (How much do you “believe” in following the date?)  what you put your cabinets and refrigerator  other Do you feel that the food itself can help you with organization (i.e. better labels)?

On food waste: 1. Discuss how aware / educated you are about global food waste. Do you care about its consequences (i.e. hunger, pollution, etc.?) Do you consider it a problem? If so, is it a problem that can be solved, or is unavoidable?  Do you feel that individual behavioral changes can combat the problem? If so, would you be willing to change your own behaviors? o Do you actively try to prevent food waste, whether if its personally or through community agendas? o Do you feel that there could be better tools / resources which would help you become more knowledgeable about food waste? 2. Discuss your own personal food wasting behavior. o What your main concern when it comes to wasting food?  budget  health / diet  boring meals  other o

On diet / health: 1. Discuss your typical dietary lifestyle. o


What do you usually eat for meals during the day? How would you rank these variables by level of importance to you when it comes to what you eat:  taste  health benefits  price  convenience (i.e. “I was hungry, and it’s what was there.”)  how easy it is to prepare Are you aware of the United States’ obesity crisis? Do you think that managing food better would help combat it?



Do you care about your health when it comes to eating? If so, to what degree do you practice healthy eating (i.e. portion control, keeping a food journal, reading nutrition labels, seeing a nutritionist, etc.)

Overall, how do you feel about your relationship with food (in terms of purchasing, storing, cooking, handling, etc.)? What do you think can help you develop a better relationship with it, especially when it comes to food waste and its numerous resulting consequences (i.e. on the personal level, wasting money and unhealthy eating; on a more global level, global hunger and environmental degradation).


Interview Transcripts Interview with Mom

Suburban Housewife, Cooking for Herself and Husband Anne: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Mama! Let’s start with just some basic questions about grocery shopping. How often do you shop for groceries? Where do you typically shop for them? Do you plan ahead before a shopping trip? How much do you usually spend on groceries? Mom: This depends on what you mean by “groceries”. If it’s something that your Daddy and I regularly eat, then we’d buy it typically on the weekend, which we dedicate to more ‘bulk’ grocery shopping at places like Costo and A&P, where there’s big discounts and card memberships. Since we know what we like to eat and our daily meal routines, we buy food which we eat the most frequently during such trips. But sometimes, I may need to take special a special grocery shopping trip - such as when I know I’m going to try a new dish that requires specific ingredients which we don’t typically eat, or when the food we have at home is going bad. In the former case, I tend to go to more special, local grocers - such as Dearborn - because I know that they’re produce is fresh and sometimes chain retailers don’t have the special ingredient I need; in the latter situation, I just go to what’s nearby - such as 7-Eleven - for convenience sake. As for planning ahead before a trip, I don’t really feel I need to do this - I guess I’m so used to grocery shopping by now that I just know what I need when I’m in the store. Your Dad and I typically spend $80 to $100 on groceries a week. Anne: Do you think how hungry you are affects your grocery shopping behavior? Mom: Sometimes, if I shop on an empty stomach. I thus try to avoid going grocery shopping when I am hungry. Anne: When it comes to buying fresh produce - i.e. vegetables and fruit - how long does it take you select items? What variables factor into your decision (i.e. color, size, shape, etc.) Mom: Usually, I go by color and shape. There are just some tricks I’ve learned over time when it comes to picking produce - i.e. smelling a honey dew melon, gently squeezing a mango, etc. Anne: Now let’s talk about eating out. How often do you and Daddy eat out, and where do you guys go when you do? Does this depend on the meal, the occasion, etc.? Mom: We typically eat out once a month, and we go to near-by restaurants which have dishes we like. However, sometimes we’ll take special trips into the city, such as on days your Dad doesn’t have work and/or when we learn about a new restaurant we want to try out. We usually eat lunch at restaurants. Their menu is the most important thing we consider.


Anne: I know you two don’t eat out much because you love to cook. Let’s talk about how you handle planning, preparing, and cooking meals then. How do you know all these great recipes? Mom: I know them mostly by heart - learned them from your Grandmother! I also watch The Food Network and get great dish ideas from there. Cooking has thus become a daily activity for me. Since I usually cook alone, I’ve been able to make recipes my own. I actually prefer cooking my own meals, but if I do find myself eating out, it is usually for convenience sake - i.e. I have an especially busy day and don’t have time to cook. Anne: Why do you think you cook so much, rather than eat out? Mom: Because I just love cooking! Yes, it saves money too, but I just enjoy being in the kitchen and making yummy dishes for your Daddy to enjoy. Anne: Now it’s one thing to enjoy cooking food, but what about storing it - that is, general kitchen organization? I mean, how do you guys deal with leftovers, for example? Mom: We don’t deal with leftovers that much since I know how much to make when I’m cooking for the two of us… Anne: Well, what about in the restaurant setting - do you guys need to-go bags a lot? Mom: Nope, we usually finish what we order - and if we don’t, it’s usually because we didn’t like the dish anyway, so wouldn’t want to take its leftovers home. Anne: Okay, well, what about the food that you do need to store? Do you organize the fridge, for instance? Mom: Yes, whenever I feel like things are getting too messy. Anne: Do you think the fridge could be better designed to help avoid this ‘messiness’? Mom: Yes, I’d like it to have more drawers. Anne: What about keeping track of expiration dates? Do you think that there is a need for some tool that reminds you of when food is about to expire? Mom: Not really - we usually use foods before they expire. We can always check the expiration date on the product’s label as well. Or a quick ‘smell test’ always works. Anne: Let’s finish up by talking about the food waste crisis in general. How aware are you of this issue? Do you think that you could be better educated? Mom: Actually, before you talked to me about this project, I didn’t really think about food waste from a ‘global’ standpoint - that is, one which creates other global problems, such as obesity, hunger in poorer countries, and environmental degradation. I really just associated it with wasting money and developing unhealthy eating patterns. If you don’t finish your food and/or let things sit in the fridge, that’s just money being thrown down the drain. Anne: So would you say your main concerns when it comes to wasting food are budget and health/diet? Mom: Yes. Anne: Do you think that managing food would help combat our country’s obesity crisis? Mom: Yes!


Anne: Continuing along the topic of health, then, would you say that a food’s health benefits is one of the most important variables to you when it comes to planning meals? Mom: Yes, and then taste would be the second most important. Anne: How else do you try to stay healthy when it comes to eating? Mom: Using good and smart portion control and reading nutrition labels. Anne: Overall, how do you feel about your relationship with food (in terms of purchasing, storing, cooking, handling, etc.)? What do you think can help you develop a better relationship with it, especially when it comes to food waste and its numerous resulting consequences (i.e. on the personal level, wasting money and unhealthy eating; on a more global level, global hunger and environmental degradation)… Mom: I’m pretty confident in how I deal with food. I think it’s important to appreciate food as both an art and as a source of energy. I don’t think your Dad and I are very wasteful when it comes to food because we have such a healthy relationship with it maybe part of it is because we want to save money, but I think most of it is due to our simple mindset of “food should make you feel good, and you should feel good about food”. I think if everyone starts treating food this way - seeing it as a resource and something which deserves respect - they won’t be as prone to throwing it away haphazardly.

Interview with Sister

Suburban Student, Living with Her Boyfriend and his Parents Anne: Hi, thanks for agreeing to help me with this project! It’ll be especially interesting to see you deal with food, since you’re currently living with Angel and his parents. Morgan: Yes, living with not just my boyfriend but his parents has definitely been an eyeopening experience. Anne: I’d like to open with food purchasing patterns. First, who’s in charge of the grocery shopping in the household? Morgan: It’s interesting that even though we’re four people living under the same roof, our grocery shopping patterns have developed more so on a couple-based grouping especially since Angel and I have different taste preferences than his parents. Angel and I eat out more often as well, so we don’t buy groceries as much… since I’m a student, I usually just grab food around campus so don’t really think about actual grocery shopping. Angel’s always on the go as well, so his parents certainly go to grocery stores more frequently than either of us. Anne: Well, when one of the members of the two couples do go grocery shopping… who is it? Morgan: In the case of Angel and I, both of us - since we both love to cook. In the case of his parents, his mom - since his dad isn’t doing too great health-wise and has to be confined to a wheelchair… Anne: Yes, heard about that - sorry to hear. How often are you guys shopping for groceries then, and how much do you usually spend? Morgan: Angel and I shop whenever we need something or notice food is running low. Same goes for his mom, but I think she has a more established routine, i.e. shopping on


weekends and buying foods that she knows we all eat in bulk. I guess as a four-person household, we’re spending roughly about $200 a week. Anne: Where do you guys usually shop then? Morgan: If it’s a quick trip, convenience stores - otherwise, Stop & Shop, Shoprite, Pathmark… places like that. For Chinese ingredients, we go to H-Mart. It depends on discounts retailers are offering for the week, as well as our schedules. Otherwise, I suppose it is mainly based on whatever is nearby. Anne: What about utilizing online grocery shopping platforms? Morgan: You don’t rely need that in suburban places like New Jersey, since you have a car, but I guess people living in the city would be more interested in that option. They also don’t have wholesale retailers like Costco in New York, so you don’t have the opportunity to buy in bulk… using an e-tailing grocery store thus has its value. Anne: Do you plan ahead before going shopping? Morgan: No… which is probably why Angel and I are so susceptible to impulse purchases. We should definitely be more careful, as this impacts our budgeting… the problem is we don’t realize it until at the end of the month when we actually sit down and look at bank statements. Anne: I guess you guys often find yourselves returning from a grocery shopping trip and realizing you already have what you bought at home… Morgan: Oh my God, yes. It’s the worst feeling in the world, and you feel so guilty, but then the next time you shop you do the same thing. Anne: How do you think you can combat this? Morgan: It’s going to take better inventory management on our part as consumers, but also better tools from companies to help us keep track of what we have versus what we need. Anne: Let’s talk about shopping for produce, such as fruits and vegetables, since freshness is key to purchasing decisions. How do you discern what’s fresh and what’s not? Morgan: It’s a learning process, but I rely heavily on my five senses, especially what I see. How red an apple is… the discoloration of a banana… the shape of other fruits… and so on. I guess that I do tend to avoid produce which are asymmetrical in appearance - even though I know that this doesn’t necessarily affect its taste or quality, it’s just the mere fact that it’s not as visually appealing as a symmetrical food that makes it less attractive. Anne: Great insights - I came across the issue of consumers avoiding “ugly produce” a lot during my research. Let’s move on to eating out - discuss your eating out patterns please. Morgan: As I’d mentioned, Angel and I eat out a lot. But if all four of us go out to eat, it’s usually because we prearranged to do so, such as on Friday nights. We go to local restaurants which have reasonable prices for their dishes. Otherwise, if I am alone, I pop into fast food places since they are quick, cheap, and convenient. If Angel and I have the time for a date night, though, we go to a nicer restaurant since it’s a special occasion. Anne: Now let’s talk about cooking, since you two like to cook so much. Who usually cooks the meals for the family? Morgan: For the family, it is a collaborative effort - myself, Angel, and his mom.


Anne: So are all three of you also in charge of kitchen organization? Morgan: Yes, when you live with other people, keeping things clean involves everyone if each person contributes a little bit every day, this leads to less mess accumulating and thus the need to dedicate specific times to actual cleaning. Anne: Do you guys follow cook books, or just know recipes by heart? Morgan: Most of them by heart, but we also go online and look at food blogs to get new ideas. Having The Food Network on in the background also helps. Anne: Why do you guys cook - to save money? Because you like to? To accommodate for Angel’s father’s disability and the fact that it’s difficult for him to go out? Morgan: All of the above! But of course, I think the fact that we all enjoy getting together to cook - making it a social event - is very important. Anne: Moving on to managing, storing, organizing food, then, discuss how you guys deal with food in general. For instance, do you guys frequently have to deal with leftovers? Morgan: More than we’d like to, for sure. I guess with my generation, we tend to have bigger eyes than stomachs - especially when we’re hungry. We order more food than we can eat, and/or buy more than we need. The result is a lot of leftovers accumulating in the fridge… leftovers which end up never getting touched anyway. Anne: Do you not throw out leftovers because you just forget about them, or simply due to laziness? Morgan: Bit of both… then there’s also the fact that we tend to think “Oh, we’ll get around to eating that sometime in the near future…” But you never do. Anne: Let’s talk about your fridge, then. How often do you clean it? Do you think the fridge’s design could help mitigate the need for frequent cleaning? Morgan: Yeah, more drawers and shelves would be nice. We clean the fridge out probably… whenever things are getting too congested in there (which is often). Anne: What about the kitchen’s overall design - could things be modified to help with food storage and management? Morgan: I guess so. You especially forget about foods that you have stored in high shelves - you then go out and buy more of it because you don’t even realize it’s up there. Somehow, cabinets need to be able to communicate quickly what their contents are… Anne: Great point. Obviously, then, accumulated foods lead to unnecessary food waste - food going bad, for instance, and families having to throw it out when they could’ve eaten it had you known it was going to expire soon. Morgan: What I’ve seen in our household is that cultural, generational, and gender differences influence how we deal with food. For example, I guess Angel and I are more careless when it comes to throwing food away - his parents, on the other hand, are better at utilizing what we have in the kitchen and not throwing still usable food away. I suppose it’s the fact that Angel and I were born and raised in the US - a consumer society that unfortunately is all about buying more instead of looking to what we have… his parents, as well as our’s, have a less wasteful mindset because they’re from poorer nations and didn’t enjoy as much financial stability as children. Anne: Especially Daddy, who was born and raised in Communist China, and Mommy, who had to share her resources with five other siblings!


Morgan: Yeah, I remember her telling us stories about how she, being the second oldest, had to wait until her younger siblings finished eating before getting her share… this meant she usually got the less palatable pieces of food… like the untender portions of chicken. Anne: The Chinese also seem to be more cautious when it comes to throwing away food… Morgan: Definitely from that Communist legacy - China has many marked periods of food scarcity throughout its history. Anne: Mommy is better at not wasting food than Daddy is, though. Morgan: Yeah, well, Daddy moved to the US before she did, when he was still a teenager. He adopted Western culture more quickly than she did as well - plus, I guess as a man, he’s more interested in taste than sustainability. Anne: Let’s talk about food waste now, then. How aware and educated to you feel you are about the topic? Morgan: I mean, we read about it all the time. Especially with a big pocket of consumers being environmentalists, vegans, animal rights activists, and so on. So companies as well have been keen to join the dialogue - whether it’s because they actually care about their environmental impact, or because they just want to make sure they align with consumer beliefs (to get their money in the end…) Anne: Do you think it’s a problem that can be addressed at the household level? Morgan: Yes, you’ve got to start somewhere. If everyone starts being more careful about how they deal with food, then, on a more global level, we’ll see change as well. But it’ll take time and effort… and usually, if people don’t see tangible results quickly, the won’t bother to change their behaviors. Anne: Yeah, it’s that “Well, no one else is doing it, so why should I?” and “I won’t make a difference anyway” mentality. Morgan: What people really care about are other things - like their budget and health. You got to show people how they are heavily correlated with food waste, in real time. Anne: So they need reminders? Morgan: Yeah - like how I said that Angel and I don’t realize how much money we waste when we throw away food until the end of the month, when we look at bank statements. You’re not looking at statements on a daily basis, and you’re not thinking about food waste as a global epidemic on a daily basis either. Anne: Definitely - you seem to be pretty insightful about the problem, or at least, when you sit down and think about it, you really see how it’s a systemic issue. Morgan: Yeah, but you see, I got to be talking to you specifically about food waste to realize these things. It requires a higher order of thinking. Anne: So whatever solution my group plans to introduce, there needs to be a strong educational element. Morgan: Yes, that should be a key feature. Anne: Thanks!


The Global Food Waste Epidemic  

"The Global Food Waste Epidemic." Addressing the Problem at the Household Level. Date Completed: May 2014. Brief: R&D Advanced Methods - Fin...

The Global Food Waste Epidemic  

"The Global Food Waste Epidemic." Addressing the Problem at the Household Level. Date Completed: May 2014. Brief: R&D Advanced Methods - Fin...