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Get Food Smarts

Empower consumers to reduce their household food waste to zero.

Photo of Claire Keane
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Get Food Smarts

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.getfoodsmarts.com

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Just beginning now

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Cork, Ireland.

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Ireland.

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The Republic of Ireland covers an area of 70,274 km².

What country is your selected Place located in?

Republic of Ireland.

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Ireland is the homeland I grew up in, was educated in and returned to after working abroad. It is rich in farming, food and beautiful scenery. It's the place I'm most familiar with and it is important to me that its' natural beauty is not damaged by environmental degradation. People are generally friendly and curious, and the senior citizens who have lived through leaner times, have a wealth of knowledge about optimising, preserving and saving food. I'm connected to this place via food, family and love for the land. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland (officially named Ireland), which covers five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Approximately 4.9 million live in the Republic of Ireland and over 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland. Ireland is bounded to the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean and the northeast by the North Channel. To the east, the Irish Sea connects to the Atlantic Ocean and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. The island enjoys a temperate oceanic climate.

Agriculture accounts for about 64% of the total land area for crop cultivation and cattle rearing. 32.2% of all of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions are due to agriculture. This has resulted in limited land to preserve natural habitats. The long history of agricultural production coupled with modern agricultural methods has placed pressure on biodiversity. Ireland is the least forested country in Europe with only 10% of the land covered in woodland.  

Ireland ranks among the top ten wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita and scores well for press freedom, civil liberties and economic freedom and is a founding member of the European Union. Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce an environmental levy for plastic shopping bags in 2002. Recycling in Ireland is carried out extensively and people are generally conscious of their environmental impact, however, when you scratch below the enforced rules, citizens practice many throwaway wasteful habits. 

Ireland is English speaking with a predominantly Caucasian population, it is known for its music, dance, archaeological history and literature. What was once a predominantly rural population, now, just over a third of the population live in rural areas. People hope for affordable housing, access to healthcare and a fair living wage, especially amongst the farming community. 

The devastating potato famine in the 1840s caused one million deaths and forced over one million more to emigrate in its immediate wake. Great poverty encouraged a subsistence approach to food whereby the vast majority of the population sufficed with a diet of potatoes and milk. In the years that followed, Irish cuisine was traditionally based on meat and dairy products, supplemented with vegetables and seafood.  More modern cuisine is including more seasonal fresh vegetables, fish, shellfish, and the wide range of hand-made farmstead cheeses. Traditional breads like soda bread and wheaten bread are common. However, only one-third of people in Ireland eat the recommended amount of vegetables, salads and fruit each day often leading to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. 

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

70274

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

4913827

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Current and Future Challenges in our food system: in Ireland, 40% of the waste going to landfills is organic, the majority of which is food waste. Wasted food represents wasted resources (including emissions, water, fertilizer, loss of nutrients, soil, runoff and labour). 

The current overreliance on convenience food coupled with cheap meat and dairy in Ireland is not healthy or sustainable. Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer are on the rise and yet despite public campaigns, people generally do not like being told what to eat nor are they changing their eating habits at an enthusiastic rate. Challenges exist around changing peoples behaviour to a healthier, more sustainable diet, that has less of an impact on the environment and ensures food producers, namely small farmers are paid a better living wage. 

Educational campaigns influencing the public to eat 5 or more a day is required. We should know where our food comes from and we should treat it with respect, instead of tossing it in the trash when we forget it at the back of the fridge. We need to start tracking our food purchases in order to change our behaviour, similar to what a fitness app would do, after all, you can't manage what you don't measure. We need to maintain this behaviour into the future and not lose hope. Change begins with each individual at the level of the kitchen plate because 3 times a day we make a choice about what we eat. 

By developing innovative strategies to increase public awareness about the critical environmental and public health issues created by our current food system we can elevate awareness and advocate for moving in a more sustainable alternative direction. 

What we eat affects our bodies, our minds and our planet now and long into the future. 

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Through the website and app, Get Food Smarts, will work towards overcoming the already mentioned challenges around food waste.

We'll educate consumers around food and its interconnectedness to waste. We'll deliver that education collaboratively via the website, in-school training, on-campus training, government outreach and social media. 

Our app will help consumers get organised, plan meals, create shopping lists, be informed about what's in their fridge and pantry and how long it should be there. Recipes will help stimulate consumers on using up their ingredients with healthy eating being prioritised. Smartphone notifications will remind consumers to eat the food before it goes bad. Saving people money along the way. 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

People will eat better and be more informed about food and it’s interconnection to climate change. Since less food will be wasted, agricultural land and associated resources including the air, water, and labour will be optimally used and will experience less negative pressure. This will lead to a smaller foodprint per head of population. 

A more equal balance between under and over-nutrition will exist. Food pantries will be regularly stocked without experiencing peaks and troughs in supply.  Food insecure will be no more because food sharing will be routine.

Communities will be closer as a consequence of people sharing extra food and novel ideas around resource sustainability. The nation as a whole will become more food thrifty and resource nifty. 

Food shopping will be planned via apps like Get Food Smarts. Smartphones will be used for tracking and measuring food inventory, food consumption, food waste, food portioning and ultimately food calorie intake. The intertwined relationships of food consumption and climate change will be visible and apparent.

Children will be conscious of food waste through parental influence. A sense of urgency will be in the air and people will gladly participate to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. 

Systems thinking whereby people see themselves as part of a whole interconnected ecosystem and automatically think of optimal food use rather than convenience will be habitual. Grocery food stores will back the initiative, support food waste strategies and use messaging in their stores to inspire shoppers. Chefs will continue to encourage novel ways of upcycling food odds and ends.  Local government will support food waste measures.

Smart devices will be integrated throughout the home (like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomePod, smart fridges like Samsung Family Hub Smart Fridge Freezer, and barcode scanner Amazon Dash) will monitor, remind and measure food consumption and food waste.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Ireland, 2050, the people and land are symbiotically connected. You can smell the fresh clean air in the breeze and see clear water flowing from the gushing stream that feeds into the River Shannon. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of a rainbow trout leaping out of the water to bite on a mayfly. It’s mid-summer and the cows are gently grazing in the field over yonder. Calves are still at their mothers’ sides. A bull roams nearby, keeping a close eye on his herd. 

The farmer is making the most of the long evenings, getting a crop of hay cut for the coming winter’s animal feed. Mary, the farmer, is using technology to help her track more than just the weather, she tracks soil patterns, animal field rotation and crop disease. Her children are busy picking lettuce, beets and snap peas from the garden. They’ll take these to the local farmers market with their Grandparents who are showing them how to run a small-scale business at a young age. 

Saturday is market day, and they get to meet the townspeople who they have developed deep and meaningful relationships with. Most of them gravitate to Granny for her wisdom on food use and recipe sharing. It’s like an extended family for the farmers and townspeople. After a day at the market, they pack up their trucks feeling content, they’ve made good money in exchange for good food and they feel warm and fuzzy inside after being around many like-minded, food sharing, land caring people. 

This is the Ireland of 2050, where people enjoy meaningful relationships, pay a fair price for food and wouldn’t dare consider wasting it, they share thoughts and ideas on sustainability, cherish clean air and water, good soil and regenerative agriculture. Litter has become a curse of the past. Young and old mix well and the elders are appreciated for their knowledge and are cherished as an important part of society. People love living here. 

This is the Ireland of 2050 and in order to achieve this vision, some transformations need to take place. Currently, in 2020, the general population is short on awareness of their impacts of wrongfully discarded food. There is an attitude that throwing food away is okay and that the municipal authorities will take care of it via centralised composting. Food is relatively cheap and easily replaced. Some 28% of the world’s agricultural area or some 200 Irelands is used for food that is then lost or wasted. Specifically, in Ireland, 40% of the waste going to landfills is organic, the majority of which is food waste. At least 1 million tonnes of food waste is being generated each year, much of which takes up space in a landfill. Despite the fact that methane gas extraction exists on several landfills in Ireland, it’s not an efficient use of food.

The current waste management pyramid is comprised of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle hierarchy. It needs to be rephrased to Food Optimization, Source Reduction, Food Sharing, Animal Feed+ Industrial use, Composting, Landfill. At present, recycling is very strong in Ireland and a popular thing to do. However, that strong ethic is not present around food waste. The instinct is to go straight to compost rather than upcycle. Municipal food waste is treated, conditioned and shredded before being converted into fertiliser for agricultural purposes all over Ireland.

In Ireland, almost 50% of the salad greens we buy gets thrown out, almost 25% of the fruit and vegetables, specifically potatoes, apples and bananas being the largest culprits. Another 20% of bread and bakery is wasted, while 10% of expensive meat and fish proteins and 10% of all dairy is tossed. 

In order to change this paradigm, we’ll need a shift in thinking where food waste is linked to environmental sustainability. We’ll need education, public policy reforms, technology-enabled toolkits, a cultural shift, illustrated economic savings and an awareness of the degradation that’s caused to our environment. 

We’ll need a national campaign to launch the food waste app Get Food Smarts to help raise awareness amongst people to start a food waste reduction plan or to push those further along their journey of food waste reduction. By using the tools provided on the app, consumers can evaluate their current food waste practices and work to reduce their food waste and foodprint at home. Once a connection is made at how saving food is saving money, behavioural change will slowly follow. 

Using a collaborative theme, the Get Food Smarts app will encourage people to not only reduce their food waste but also to start sharing their tips and food waste ideas on the platform. Excess food can be shared via the Olio app or donated to local food pantries. A side benefit is that people start to get to know each other better through interactions around food sharing and subsequently food pantries will be regularly stocked and able to feed the food insecure with fewer dips in supply. Our aim is to have a closed-loop network, where zero food goes to waste. In the event that people cannot get that food fast enough to reach its destination, composting is a last resort. 

Because the app suggests heart-healthy recipes, people will see a significant improvement in their diets. Some will move away from fast food towards more meaningful food. Potluck get-togethers will become a feature where neighbours gather to share their excess and meaningful relationships ensue. 

The population will start to see the connection when food is saved, money is saved and thriftiness will become the norm, like in our grandparent’s era. People will start to think with their wallets instead of their stomachs when they see food. 

Since technology is in the palm of everyone’s hand, people will start to shop smarter. The app will encourage them to get organised, make a list and have a plan for food shopping. Through the website www.getfoodsmarts.com, people can be inspired in multiple ways to upcycle their food into creative recipes. They can monitor and measure their food purchases and consumption through the Get Food Smarts app and build a support network through the community feature included. Accessibility is important and people with disabilities will not be forgotten, the website and app are designed for them too. 

Schools can play a key component in educating kids and households about food waste and many Irish schools have signed up for the ‘Green-Schools’ program. Schools are rewarded with a green flag to erect outside if they excel in the seven-step process. Out of close to 1,000 primary schools surveyed, 98.5% of them are environmentally aware and 87% of the schools provide facilities to recycle cans and compost, yet there is no mention of food waste minimization techniques. Schools provide the perfect opportunity to capture a conscientious audience on food waste reduction.

31 Irish universities also take part in a green initiative called ‘Green Campus’ which encourages universities to go green in many ways, yet there is no mention of educating new students on food waste management tips like cooking, storing, portioning, etc.  Again, this is an optimal opportunity to gain the attention of an interested, money-savvy audience. 

Our platform aims to educate consumers on how to shop, how to use their food wisely, receive notifications before food spoils and how to use up leftovers with tasty recipes. There is information in Ireland on these topics but nothing with an abundance of information and nothing that helps you track food, and upcycle it into tasty dishes. We aim to equip consumers, school children and students with a central place for their food waste needs. 

Better public health is related to a better environment. Consumers face a delicate balance between following optimal dietary recommendations to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables while simultaneously wasting less of them. This can be especially challenging for individuals with limited time and money, including families with children who face competing food preferences in the household. 

Planning food purchases through the Get Food Smarts app based on household inventory is a starting platform. Increasing consumers’ knowledge around food freshness, storage, preparation will play a vital role in reducing food waste. Knowledge of adequate food portioning helps the relationship between the amount of food selected and the amount of plate waste. 

Sustained changes can happen if there are financial benefits to the consumer. By showing consumers the monetary value of their measured food waste they will start to change behaviours to tossed food. Food savings can also be tracked on the Get Food Smarts app. By including real-life examples of families changing behaviours and saving money, similar to how the Irish tv show, Operation Transformation which shows people losing weight and making lifestyle behavioural changes, consumers will slowly start changing their behaviours. 

Consumer outreach will be gained through programs when recipients receive food vouchers. This provides an opportune time to reach and provide education and guidance for lower-income households to make healthy food choices. 

Finally, a renaissance around craftiness and thriftiness in the kitchen will emerge through tips and tricks suggested on the app and website. What our grandparents thought was every day will make a resurgence. The power of social media will be leveraged to communicate the message of urgency. A culture of inclusivity where everyone can play their part will be required and delivered through wide-ranging stakeholders getting involved (school teachers, parents, college campuses, householders, and governmental agencies). 

Since people care how they compare to others an optional element of competition will be added to the app to show how well consumers are doing against their neighbours. Subtle social competition, showing their own food waste and that as compared to their neighbours will celebrate progress and turn apathy into action. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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Team

Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative.

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