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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 ?
7 9

Written by

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

7 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Sean Ferguson
Team

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.

Photo of Brittany Ryden
Team

The gamification caught my eye & I agree has huge potential. I don't see the fun, gamification portion of your idea though. Can you explain more?

Photo of Eroteme ?
Team

Hi Brittany,
             Thanks for stopping by. Points 5, 6, 7 essentially talk about the game part of this idea. How to make it more fun? I thought earning points & getting to utilise them was fun but perhaps not! :-D Do you have some ideas of making this more fun? Would love to hear.

Photo of Souvonik D
Team

I recently went to a tech conference where an app could scan receipts. If you have a catalogue of all items in the retail store, you could pull that data via taking a picture of the app. Could that be applied here?

Photo of Eroteme ?
Team

Apologies for the delay in responding! It can absolutely be applied here. The intent is to catalogue & any means of realising that will work... :-)

Photo of Kerrin McLaughlin
Team

Hi Eroteme! Like where your idea is headed and its similarities to mine (https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-waste/ideas/shelf-life-an-app-for-leeping-track-of-the-food-in-our-kitchens)

I have some questions -
would the QR codes be directly on each item and need to be scanned individually? or do you scan the receipt at checkout?

Who is supplying the information about these food items? Would supermarkets have to buy in individually and add the info themselves? This was a big challenge I faced when developing Shelf Life. LUCKILY Smart Labels are becoming a thing in some places (I think Hershey's is an example of a notable company beginning to embrace it) so I suggest looking into this. 

The points/reward system is interesting, but what's to prevent people from lying about what food they consumed or recycled for extra points?

I like the idea of the intelligent food advisor that gets to know your shopping habits, that's cool.

Lastly, what mechanism could be put in place to help people remember to remove items from the list when they're gone to prevent inaccurate information? That was another problem I faced, which led to the automated scanning, but curious for your thoughts on this.

Looking forward to more collaboration!

Photo of Eroteme ?
Team

Apologies for the delayed response, Kerrin McLaughlin . Answers to your questions below:

1. They could verily be on the receipt as well, esp. for produce that might not lend to being tagged
2. A lot of supermarkets (like Whole Foods) have catalogues. We could very well supply a catalogue & QR code map that could be a standard/reference for supermarkets to use
3. What's to prevent people from lying about the foods they consumed? Nothing, really. There will always be a way to cheat the system. It is like a weight-watchers program. But you are right, I should think through this better.
4. Not sure I understood your last question: What inaccurate information? You mean if they consume half a pound of tomatoes but don't take it off the list? I was imagining that I will always consume to a recipe or to my idea (which I would share to gain points). So in registering that I cooked pasta sauce, I will automatically deduct half a pound & 25 grams of olive oil & half a head of garlic, etc.