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Gamify food consumption to reduce waste

A simpler world where foods talk to you & tell you what to do with them, saving money for you & businesses

Photo of Eroteme ?
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If all the food we bought could tell us what we should do with them, we'd have lesser things to keep in mind & fret over!

That possibility drives this idea.

I walk into a store & pick all the items I want. I go to the checkout counter & scan the code on my app with the clerk. She goes ahead & adds the foods to my bag (cotton). Each item has a special QR code which lets me know what I bought, how much of it I bought, when I bought it, when can I expect it to get spoilt, etc. Soon, my app knows all the foods I have with me. Here is all that one could achieve with this approach:

App Idea, with std colour coding
  1. Inventory of food: By storing all purchase & consumption in one accessible place (synced across devices), one is better informed about what one has without having to open the fridge or cabinets to actually find out.
  2. Food Advisor: Once the app knows what you have, it can provide you advice on how to use it. For each food item, recipes are curated based on the item selected (e.g. Bell peppers, in the image above) in conjunction with the other foods in your pantry weighed by recipes that use the selected item along with items that are at risk of getting wasted (e.g. Bell peppers + tomato recipes trump bell peppers + spinach). The Food Advisor also invites creative ways in which you have used the food items making it available to other conscious consumers (and winning you points for sharing your ideas). Warnings & alerts are raised for food going waste, suggestions on how to test if the food is indeed spoilt, how to recycle spoilt food - these and many more feature as the ways in which the Food Advisor helps you.
  3. Centralised food management: With this app being shared between family, party planners, potluck chefs, etc. food wastage could be reduced by increasing communication. When I bought the bag of carrots, my partner is informed when she picks a packet on her way back that we already have carrots.
  4. Historical trend: Over time, I get to know how I use food, how do I always assume that I need 4 pounds of potatoes but regularly waste 1+ pounds, how I always run out of onions, how I substituted garlic powder for garlic, days of the week when I buy & waste, etc. This helps my app guide me better when buying. The next time when I pick up a bag of tomatoes & scan it in my app (before placing it in my cart), my app will tell me that I have usually bought this quantity & wasted 1 lb, so I might consider tomato paste which lasts longer.
  5. Win points & freebies: With every food item completely consumed or donated or recycled, you win points. With every Food Advisor suggestion you followed, you win points (& strengthen the suggestion for others). With every idea you share, you win points. All these actions of yours defines your profile as a conscious consumer. The points you win can be exchanged for discounts & freebies offered by partnering supermarkets/brands (who like to be seen as supporting conscious consumption & reducing wastage).
  6. Inform supermarkets: And as you win, so do businesses. As they keep getting information about the consumption patterns of their clients (shared anonymously) they are able to manage their inventory better & reduce wastage. They are also able initiate buy-back schemes (say, 5 days before something is going to get spoilt) so that they may sell it to customers from lower income backgrounds (increases social capital). 
  7. Partner with food-redirecting businesses: The app also lets you partner with businesses that accept food excesses that they can channelise into charity or social causes of feeding animals (humans included). And yes! this wins you points too & enhances your profile as a conscious consumer.

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

A food diary, a simple prototype app, sharing sample data with businesses, experimental tie up with food banks

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

UX, ease of contributing food habits without being intrusive or disconnected, validation of motivation to contribute this info

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a computer scientist & my official work engages me in software & product development & design. I also work with organisations in the space of education & sustainable dev.

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 Sean Ferguson

I'm thinking about this same issue so hopefully this takes off. One idea that I might consider is that people often waste food for a variety of reasons associated with care and high expectations of themselves. On the first issue, I've been to a couple of conferences where ethnographic methods were used to reveal that food waste in the home was stemming from an overwhelming concern that the homemaker would not be able to provide for people if they happened to come by, or if their kids friends came over, or an impromptu dinner party happened. I'm not sure how to manage that, but it could be used as a leverage point to make people feel better about how their not wasting is a form of care for others.
Second, at least in my anecdotal experience, food waste comes about due to this notion that "of course I'm going to cook a meal every day because that is what I am supposed to do." You could make this a social engagement for promoting points for any members that can offer recipes to others that a) request help or b) have their food getting close to spoilage. A second subset of options could be on how to preserve foods easily to extend shelf life, e.g. quick pickling is stupid easy and could be put in as a pop up option as spoilage gets close.

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