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Food waste represents one of the most pressing challenges of our time.


Globally, 30–40% of food produced for consumption is wasted every year. Wasted food represents a massive social, environmental, and economic loss.

Socially, 800 million people are undernourished globally, and in the U.S. one in seven people are food insecure. Environmentally, food loss and waste is a massive resource drain, using 21% of U.S. fresh water and generating about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, if it were measured as a country, food waste would rank third in the world for harmful emissions. Economically, food loss and waste globally costs up to $940 billion per year.

When we dramatically reduce food waste, we also address hunger, capture more economic opportunity, and protect our planet.

While food waste is an important global issue, we want to be mindful of the differences in the reasons why waste occurs. In developed countries, most food is wasted at the consumer and retail level, from people throwing away excess food or grocery stores rejecting “imperfect” looking produce. In developing countries, food is often lost during harvest, or on the journey from farm to market. As our world becomes more globally connected, our food supply chains are more integrated, and therefore a systems level approach is all the more important for reducing waste.

This is an opportunity that requires attention, creativity, and collaboration, and our OpenIDEO community is a perfect place to build and discover innovative solutions. We all have an important role to play in dramatically reducing food waste and creating more secure and prosperous futures.

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We're calling a global community to action – to share your stories, reflections, interviews, and findings related to food waste during our Research phase. Then – collaboratively during our Ideas phase – we’ll create solutions that dramatically reduce food waste.

With help from our challenge sponsors, we’ll create a shortlist of submitted ideas that will move into our Refinement phase. During the Refinement phase all ideas are encouraged to continue progressing, while the shortlist represents ideas that are most active and aligned with our Evaluation Criteria.

After an iterative Refinement phase we’ll announce Top Ideas from the challenge - a set of solutions that represent innovation and impact in the topic area.


Our evaluation criterium come from themes that emerged during discussions with our challenge sponsors, Advisory Panel, and other collaborators. We’re excited to see these themes represented in the ideas posted during the Ideas phase and ultimately in our Top Ideas. We’re looking for ideas that…

Reduce food waste. Reducing wasted food is at the heart of this challenge. How does your idea tackle this issue with potential for great social, environmental, and economic change? We’re excited to help you embrace your creative instincts to create fresh solutions on this topic.

Are innovative. We're aiming to think beyond the current structure of food systems. Does your idea bring something new to the work that’s already being done or ignite existing efforts in a new way? Will it engage new audiences in the food waste movement? Highlight what makes your idea unique.

Are human-centered. This is at the heart of OpenIDEO’s approach. Lead with empathy by talking to potential end users, and then get to know your local community even better by building quick prototypes and gathering feedback. After a few iterations of this, think beyond your own backyard to how your idea might apply to other environments.

Think big and smart. Starting local can be really powerful – but how might your idea be transferable to a larger number of people? As you form your idea, try to be mindful of the different living environments that surround the food landscape and how your idea might adapt.How might you balance both scalability and replicability? What are the clear next steps for your idea and how will they become real?

Focus on relationships. We’re looking for ideas that have an understanding of who is immersed in different parts of the food system. This topic spans many different global issues and can’t be solved in silos. What role do businesses, countries, cultures and industries play in your idea? Which relationships might be key to the success of your idea?


The Food Waste Challenge is supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, ReFED, The Fink Family Foundation, and The San Francisco Department of the Environment. All the stakeholders in this challenge are eager to see the radical conversations and unexpected collaborations that come from this effort. Opening this topic to a global community with a variety of experiences, cultural backgrounds, and areas of expertise holds great potential and rich learning opportunities. 

Ideally, this challenge will yield tangible solutions that our sponsors are excited to support. Additionally, Closed Loop Foundation will offer $25,000 to one or more qualifying Top Ideas from the process and fast-track all Top Ideas for consideration of additional funding as part of their Food Waste Innovation and Solution Search. The City of San Francisco also hopes to prototype and launch one or more Top Ideas with the city. As the challenge unfolds, we'll share more about our goals and post-challenge opportunities so you know where we're headed.

As always, we encourage everyone to take your ideas forward and implement them in your own communities. On OpenIDEO we strive to be a place where good ideas gain momentum – both from the community and from our sponsors and partners. For more information check out our Guiding Principles for tips on how our community collaborates.


The Rockefeller Foundation
For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today, The Rockefeller Foundation pursues this mission through dual goals: advancing inclusive economies that expand opportunities for more broadly shared prosperity, and building resilience by helping people, communities and institutions prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. To achieve these goals, The Rockefeller Foundation works at the intersection of four focus areas—advance health, revalue ecosystems, secure livelihoods, and transform cities—to address the root causes of emerging challenges and create systemic change. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot—or will not.  To learn more, please visit

ReFED: Rethink Food Waste
ReFED is a non-partisan, non-profit collaboration of over 30 business, government, and NGO leaders committed to scaling solutions to reduce food waste in the United States. In March 2016, ReFED released A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20%, the first ever national economic study and action plan driven by a multi-stakeholder group. The Roadmap shows an achievable path to a 20% reduction of food waste within a decade through 27 cost-effective, feasible, and scalable solutions that could be implemented today to divert 13 million tons from landfills and on-farm losses. Through the findings of the Roadmap, ReFED seeks to unlock new philanthropic and investment capital, along with technology, business, and policy innovation, which is projected to catalyze tens of thousands of new jobs, recover billions of meals annually for the hungry, and reduce national water use and greenhouse gas emissions. For more information about ReFED and to download the report, visit

The Fink Family Foundation
At the Fink Family Foundation, our mission is to move communities toward a more balanced, sustainable relationship with the environment. We support and invest in innovative organizations that preserve, protect and enhance the use of natural resources, biological diversity, and the health of humanity.  We also support and collaborate with those who serve as catalysts and conveners to leverage our impact and accomplish our mission.

San Francisco Department of the Environment
The San Francisco Department of the Environment creates visionary policies and innovative programs to improve, enhance, and preserve San Francisco’s urban and natural environment, leading the way toward a sustainable future. By developing wide-ranging environmental programs, fostering groundbreaking legislation, working collaboratively with key partners, and educating the public on comprehensive sustainability practices, the department makes it easy for everyone in San Francisco to protect their environment. For more information on their just launched "Real Foodies Compost" campaign visit
This challenge is now over.
268 contributions
453 ideas
453 final ideas
40 final ideas
40 final ideas