Studies in the U.S. and Canada show that the majority of food waste occurs at the household level (see some study findings here). This calls for an intervention primarily in our individual kitchens. There are already helpful existing resources for how we can minimize waste in the home (e.g., Dana Gunder's Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook), but how can we inspire individuals to take action in the first place? On the other hand, there are people who are either interested or are already making efforts in minimizing food waste in their homes, but how do we encourage them to keep up with the challenge?
Food is wasted in households either due to lack of awareness that food waste comes with a high cost to the environment or lack of information and knowledge on how to combat food waste.
This project aims to facilitate the establishment of Food Waste Warriors Clubs in two to three diverse neighborhoods/communities in Toronto, Canada. The final envisioned result is to have a well-functioning and sustainable Food Waste Warriors Clubs, much like the same way as other clubs, such as Writers or Book Clubs, operate: out of personal interest and motivation, plus in the case of the Food Waste Warriors, out of concern for food waste and the desire to save money as well. Club members also benefit from the satisfaction that comes with sustainable living whereby cost to the environment is minimized. As with any endeavor common to the human, community is vital. Community means discovering and learning from one another and together, supporting each other, and having fun along the way! There are poetry clubs, ski clubs, language clubs, knitting clubs - why not Food Waste Warriors Clubs? The formation of the clubs will provide a platform for members to learn traditional/innovative methods for reducing food waste at the home and to exchange experiences of their actual efforts. Over the longer-run, the vision is to expand the practice of the Food Waste Warriors Clubs to more neighborhoods in Toronto, other parts of Canada and beyond.
Plans are already underway to approach relevant public/private organizations and people that share concerns around food waste and have existing channels for interacting with the public with experience attracting public interest. Potential partners include the following (a couple of which already have food waste-related programs):
- City of Toronto
- Toronto Public Library
An outline of project activities for establishing the Food Waste Warriors Clubs is shown below:
I. Partnership Building
- Identify and approach organizations/people who might have interest in food waste reduction activities; gather specific interests, level of involvement, inputs/resources they can provide, etc;
- Organize meetings with interested partners to bring ideas together and produce a plan of action;
II. Laying the Foundation for the Food Waste Warriors Club Program
- Collect/structure/consolidate info sheets on ways to combat food waste in the store-to-kitchen cycle (e.g., Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook by Dana Gunders; other sources) to be made available to club members/attendees;
- Design an outline for regular activities (possibly involving a rotation of topics such as: Shopping Tips for Food Waste Warriors; How Food Waste Warriors Store Food; Freezing 101; Reviving Leftovers; Extending the Life of Herbs; Time to Preserve: Drying and Canning; etc) and special activities (e.g., attendees/members organize no-waste meals in parks; tastings of various ethnic dishes)
- Promote the use of food waste diaries and design simple tools that will help in facilitating dialogue and experience sharing between Food Waste Warriors Club members/attendees;
- Plan for making the clubs sustainable from the start: What are the suitable locations for hosting club meetings? What level of facilitation is needed at the beginning and over time? How can the clubs be made self-sustaining? How can the meetings be made to continue to attract participation over time?
III. Engaging the Public
- A call for public participation in the Food Waste Warriors Club program
1. Develop a strategy for creating interest;
2. Tap on resources/experiences from potential partners that already have experience engaging with the public and attracting public interest (e.g., City of Toronto, Toronto Public Library);
- Run the pilot project in two to three diverse communities for a period of one year, organizing two club meetings per month (a total of 24 meetings per community).
- From beginning to end, document outcomes, challenges, successes, and learnings.
The expected project impact is to lay the foundation for instilling in individuals the overall value gained (personal, financial, environmental, social) out of making efforts in eliminating food waste at the home. The same way that an average person understands the value in creating a home-garden who then makes efforts to learn how to do it effectively and efficiently, the expected overarching impact is that more and more people will see the value in reducing food waste in their kitchens and will want to learn how to do so effectively and efficiently. They will voluntarily participate in the cause, spread the word, and help build a movement in their community and beyond.