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Linking Food Waste Warriors: Establishing Food Waste Warriors Clubs

To establish clubs of food waste warriors dedicated in preventing food waste in their kitchens for experience sharing and accountability.

Photo of Mismak Zena Gessesse
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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): 

Toronto Food Policy Council 

- City of Toronto

- Toronto Public Library 

David Suzuki Foundation 

- FoodShare 

- Dana Gunders 

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). 

Gathering Learnings 

- From beginning to end, document outcomes, challenges, successes, and learnings. 

Expected Impact 

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. 

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

- Collaborate with a potential partner or two to organize a few events in my community around food waste with this project idea in mind and observe results: gauge participation levels and community interest, and gather any other learnings - Another option is to simply create a meetup group in my community and organize events with this project idea in mind and then gather learnings

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

- Any lessons from similar initiatives, if any, from around the world. What did Dana Gunder's food waste campaign look like and what lessons can be drawn from that experience? - Any help, feedback or otherwise, around the three pillars of action mentioned above (Building Partnerships, Laying the Foundation, Engaging the Public) - Tools/resources from OPENIDEO and the design team to make the overall project more human-centered

Tell us about your work experience:

I've worked in the sphere of international development/humanitarian assistance for over eight years, focusing on various sectors including environment, education, and women's empowerment. I have a deep interest in sustainability/sustainable development, particularly in the areas of environment, education, and governance and ethics. I am an avid home-cook with a food blog and continuously seek to hone my food waste warrior skills.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

How far along is your idea?

  • It’s just been created! It’s existed for 1 day - 1 month


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ashenafi Zena

Wonderful idea! Action to change this world one great idea at a time. Keep it up.

Photo of Melat Assefa

Dear Mismak,

Your proposal sounds fantastic and Toronto seems to be the ideal city for it! I recently read a book titled 'food' edited by John Knechtel which talks about the food production and industry there, and it was very inspiring! Below are my comments:

While Toronto provides the diversity of food like most cosmopolitan cities, it would be great if your club addresses the food production process including how/where food is produced, transported, and thrown away. I think this understanding will create a more fruitful food relationship within the club members, it could also lead to a more sustainable process where you could promote local and/or organic food production within the city. Are you also in touch with the food banks which are already set up in the city - they could be potential partners to your club.

Keep up the good work, and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of your idea!

Photo of Mismak Zena Gessesse

Hi Melat, 

Thank you very much for the thoughtful, interesting feedback! 

I totally agree that the clubs will benefit from having a bigger picture understanding of the food production/consumption/wasting process and knowing how to access local/organic foods that are sustainably produced. There are many initiatives in Toronto around this, including those spearheaded by the City of Toronto, to easily draw upon. The project will of course focus on the main theme of reducing food waste in the home-kitchen but perhaps with an introductory or occasional diversions to the overall food production/consumption process. 

Thanks for bringing up the food banks! I think working with them is certainly an interesting idea and I can see how the scope of the project can expand over the longer-term to include knowledge building around food waste tailored for such types of "commercial-like" or "industrial-like" kitchens. There is usually a lot of waste generated in these kitchens and there is certainly the need to combat food waste there. I recently did some volunteer work for a charity kitchen which functioned very much like a commercial kitchen and I saw firsthand the volume of waste that was generated daily. Managing waste-free food shopping/storage and meal preparation in that scale is something of a beast! And I am certainly motivated, especially after my experience working in such kitchens. I think perhaps this makes for a great opportunity to increase the project scope down the road, whilst in the beginning phases the focus will be more around household kitchens. In any case though, the clubs will be open to the public so those working in commercial/industrial kitchens will be more than welcome to join and hopefully apply some of the knowledge gained to help minimize food waste in their respective kitchens.

Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts! And I will keep an eye out for that book!  

Photo of Jan

Our city's main library has an IdeaLab- a community space where people can come together to solve problems.  Even if a full-fledged club doesn't seem viable in a particular area, perhaps an Idea Lab or other community space could be used to bring people together.

One aspect you might want to add to your clubs is to invite people from as many cultures as possible to have them share recipes from their area which use foods that might be readily available yet underutilized.  Maybe even have meetings where there can be tastings of various dishes.

Check out the SmartFood entry for further inspiration.

Photo of Mismak Zena Gessesse

Hi Jan, 

Thank you very much for the great feedback! The IdeaLab is exactly the kind of platform that would help this project kick-off, hopefully with the support of other partners such as The Toronto Food Policy Council as well. I am currently looking into this with the Toronto Reference Library. 

And I totally agree with your suggestion about including diverse cultures in the club memberships. In fact that is part of the project design and the reason behind targeting two to three diverse neighbourhoods. Toronto certainly offers a unique opportunity for this type of programming with diverse ethnic participation and makes for an ideal place to test this idea for scaling-up in other parts of the world. I love the idea about tastings of various dishes! Thank you once again! 

Photo of Kaitlin Mogentale

Yes!! This is like what I'm trying to do by creating a "consultancy" of food waste warriors who can team up to fight commercial waste in various industries.

Photo of Mismak Zena Gessesse

Great project, Kaitlin! Although your project is centered around reducing/eliminating commercial food waste and mine is around household kitchens, we both seek to create partnerships! I love your idea about creating a network of food waste warrior "consultancy" and the notion of getting to "hidden" industries that generate food waste. Looks like a promising business model - I hope you are able to work it out. Good luck finding and partnering with businesses doing similar work as you! I would love to hear about the progress of your project.

Photo of marco mihambo

Hello! Mismak Zena! I hope you are doing fine! congratulation for your good and innovative idea......may you please visit this and advise accordingly regarding all aspects for further improvement

Photo of Mismak Zena Gessesse

Thanks Marco! I have shared my thoughts on your post.