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Employee wellness programs offer more than just healthy eating tips (Updated 10/11 - Prototype Feedback and Next Steps)

Include food waste information and challenges in employee wellness program initiatives.

Photo of Megan Kennedy
21 10

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Our Idea


Our research showed people were struggling with how much to buy, how to use it before it goes bad, and what dishes to use it in when they had leftovers.

Existing Infrastructure: What is an Employee Wellness Program?

Companies are helping employees to live healthier by educating them on staying active, eating healthy and being financially savvy. Wellness programs are organized by employers to help their employees eat better, lose weight and improve their overall health.

Programs can include activities such as weight-loss competitions, educational seminars, tobacco-cessation workshops and health screenings. Wellness programs often include financial incentives for employees, such as lower health-insurance premiums or reimbursement for gym memberships.

Many wellness programs offer educational and motivational components aimed at creating and maintaining individual health. This could extend to the food waste challenge to create a more holistic, end-to-end experience.


Educating employees on how to buy, store and use fresh food would help to reduce waste. The programs could extend their reach to create and maintain healthy food habits. Possible suggestions: Meal plans and shopping lists could help make employees aware of how to manage.

Both companies and employees win financially. Employees are healthier, eating fresh versus packaged food which reduces healthcare costs for companies. It would be great if companies could somehow measure this to provide environmental impact (and maybe tax benefits).

An incentive program (which some wellness programs currently offer) would encourage employee engagement in these programs. Investing in employee education now could help make long-lasting change.


How can we "score" or measure the food waste competitions between employees/teams?

Some wellness programs automatically sync data from fitness trackers like Fitbit. This reduces the employee's burden to report progress. Following this existing model, we would introduce employees to food waste prevention apps that could be synced automatically to their wellness accounts. For example, we would encourage and reward employee use of apps like these just created through the OpenIDEO challenge- ExpireShelf Life, Go Between, CoBuy.


Success may be measured by employee engagement in the food waste elements of the wellness program. Quantitative results would come in the form of points awarded for reading food waste informational cards or participating in department/team food waste competitions. 

Evaluating the Idea

Identify Riskiest Assumption

Our riskiest assumption was that employees who participate in wellness programs are interested in reducing food waste. We hypothesized that if people were given the choice of which wellness program to participate in, they would choose the program that includes food waste initiatives.

Test Riskiest Assumption

To test this hypothesis, we prototyped a lightweight, low fidelity wellness application. We interviewed four people who have participated in a wellness program. Using the prototype, we asked them to "set their interests" for this new wellness program application. We tested two versions (A/B) to see which messaging might be more effective "reducing food waste" or "reducing food costs." Interact with the prototype:Prototype Results

Three out of four people did not elect to "turn on" the food waste component.

Feedback Insights

  1. People think they’re doing fine already in regards to food waste.
  2. There is a lack of knowledge around the larger problem and the impact individuals can have.
  3. People were not uninterested, but they don't see this as one of their needs right now.

"It’s [food waste reduction initiative in a wellness program] a 'nice to have.' There’s already enough being done." - Participant

See next steps below...

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

Any insight into creating effective wellness programs or incentive programs for people would be helpful! We are looking for ways to collaborate with other applications that would sync automatically with this wellness tool. Ideally, the applications would remove the burden of self-reporting and manual measurement from participating employees.

Tell us about your work experience:

This idea comes from a group of product designers and entrepreneurs with a shared passion for food waste prevention and social impact.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

How far along is your idea?

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

How would you describe this idea to your grandmother?

Companies give their employees benefits on top of their salary. We're adding another tool to educate people to make better choices when buying food. We're adding an element/feature to teach them how to save money, reduce food waste and eat healthier. People can compete on teams to win prizes or creating the least amount of food waste.

How is your idea unique to the space?

Organizations exist to educate people through in-person workshops, email campaigns, and newsletters. This idea leverages the infrastructure of educational and motivational programs already in use by companies. The idea brings empowerment and financial benefits to employees who may not know or understand their current food waste metrics. The corporate wellness channel already reaches many people. This idea just makes programs end-to-end.

Who needs to play a role in your idea in order to make it successful?

Company wellness directors, human resource departments, employees, and employers are all key stakeholders.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

We plan to collaborate with other measurement tools/apps that will assist with generating quantitative data of individual efforts. Further, we will be able to collect this data as more companies/employees participate in the program. Next, we plan to extrapolate the food waste reduction impact by applying cost/expense factors.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

We would test our next hypothesis using an iteration of the first prototype. Next Hypothesis: If people are informed that their food waste knowledge and current behaviors allow room for improvement and cost savings, then they will elect to participate in the food waste component of the wellness program. Prototype Iteration: Enrollment begins with a survey about their current habits. Survey results indicate the person shows room for improvement and cost savings benefits of participating.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Elizabeth Marguerite

The lay out of this proposal is really clear and well designed. It makes the vision even more compelling.

Photo of Ana Milena Marquez

Hi Megan Kennedy  this is a great idea! Moreover I'm really excited to see that we have common places in our findings! Is true that many people feel comfortable and think they are doing good with their food management. Moreover not being aware of food waste. But what I found with my toolkit "Go-between" Get Involved and let´s reduce food waste _ (Updated 13/10/16 Prototypes and collaborative activity) is that people can get really engaged with the topic after few days even more their awareness increased as their interest in food waste, they start noticing their current habits and they were proposing and trying to find new ideas to save food! 

It will be fantastic if we can collaborate as we are focusing on 2 different targets but that are linked to each other "go-between" focused on households and yours in employee wellness programs. I posted some of the insights collected with the toolkit on my attachments, you could go and check it out it, you can find some individual efforts to reduce food waste giving some valuable data. 


Photo of Sierra Semel


I am honored that "Expire" was one of the ideas that inspired this employee wellness program! I think that this is a great idea. As you mentioned in your description above, companies often will provide a gym membership for their employees aiming to encourage healthy living. I could see this program similarly being implemented in companies who not only want to encourage healthy living but also want to reduce food waste!


Photo of Brian Tang

Great idea Megan Kennedy  - for Be an Urban Food Rescuer... Pokemon Go style! [UPDATE 6/10: Walk21HK CityTech Award Winner!] , our pitch regarding employee wellness programs is as follows:

1. engage employees to be food rescuers (resulting in awareness of the food waste issue and promoting healthy walking - individual and departmental competitions can be part of the gamification to incentivise behaviour, and measurements can be via data from our platform of eg amount of food rescued; distance covered) 

2. fill staff food canteens and snacking machines with ZacSnax, a healthy all natural dehydrated fruit snack that is made from the fruit such as those rescued by their employees. (we have a similar pitch to schools)

Would love to find ways to collaborate with you especially on the employee wellness program aspects! 

Photo of Megan Kennedy

Brian Tang We absolutely love #1! This would help us resolve some concerns about finding ways to measure competitions between teams/departments.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Welcome to the Refinement phase Megan! We've added new Refinement questions to your original submission that we'd love for you to answer. Please check out the Refinement Phase Toolkit for instructions on how to answer the new questions and other recommendations we encourage all idea teams to consider in the upcoming weeks.

Refinement Phase Toolkit:

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 09/28" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Megan, we updated the link to the Refinement Toolkit. Please use this new link instead!

Photo of Kate Rushton

Thank you for responding so quickly to my questions. 

Who would be the first customers for this in terms of the type of company and location?

What sort of early stage testing could you do?

Photo of Amber Matthews

Oooh, what about a competition between departments to see who can reduce the most food waste? Like The Biggest Loser but for food waste!

Photo of Megan Kennedy

That's a great idea! I know some programs allow you to build teams with other co-workers (both inside and outside your department). I wonder how we could measure it?

Photo of Amber Matthews

Ask departments to collect their food waste for a week. Measure that. Then, announce the challenge to reduce food waste and measure each week. Like corporate weight watchers competitions.

Photo of Rebecca

Just came across your idea through a Google alert and thought it was interesting! I have seen similar challenges used by hubbub health.

I work for hubbub, and the philosophy is definitely that a wellness program needs to be holistic and comprehensive to be effective. They use challenges to create a multitude of small healthy habits that grow into big changes in wellness.

Hope you don't think that I'm soliciting, I just thought you might want to know that this concept could certainly fit within existing wellness programs.

Photo of Megan Kennedy

Thanks for sharing, Rebecca! Would you be up for a phone call to talk more about how this idea could fit into the wellness programs hubbub advocates? Our team would love to hear more!

Photo of Kate Rushton

Congratulations on being one of the forty ideas in the refinement phase. 

I haven't worked for a company with an Employee Wellness Program. Would you be able to give me a few examples of programs that you think work particularly well and are examples of best practice and why?

Photo of Megan Kennedy

Thanks, Kate! Here is a link to some ideas for corporate wellness programs.

A previous employer of mine often held "lunch and learns" where either employees or subject matter experts would present on a wellness topic monthly. I learned some great tips on understanding and reading nutrition labels from a lunch and learn. I also recall getting snack/meal recipe ideas.

I know of other programs where employees link their wearable exercise trackers to a wellness portal and join corporate teams to compete against others in the company. They can gain extra points for consistency (ie. walking 10k steps each day for a week) and gain points for reading daily or weekly tips (ie. a card outlining the benefits of eating vegetarian 1 day/week).

The point system has been a motivator for people I know who are particularly competitive. Further, some employers offer tangible rewards for meeting goals or winning competitions (ie. a pair of headphones, a window box for growing herbs, a tent).

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Emily Gaddis

Do you think that insurance company programs like Humana's Vitality program could bring food waste into the conversation? They give 5% or more of a discount for buying healthy food. How might incentives from companies to compost inedible food waste be enacted? What geographical areas might be good to start?

Photo of Megan Kennedy

I don't think this is what you meant, but this makes me wonder if employers in agricultural climates could encourage employees to bring inedible food waste to the office for use in a compost pile and/or garden at the office. A garden could be a new location for employees to go when they need a break. Instead of chatting around the water cooler, they could spend a few minutes in the garden. The garden would also serve as a reminder for the origins and life cycle of food.

Photo of Ahmed null

Nice idea.

As we all know that different patients like cholesterol and diabetes patients are given food charts etc. but these patients are demotivated after few days only and somehow they start taking routine diets again. What I am trying to say is that how is it possible to keep the employees motivated towards this psyche for prolonged periods?

Photo of Megan Kennedy

That's a very good point. I think this is a separate, complex issue that many psychologists and researchers are trying to understand and design for. Motivating humans to make behavioral changes is not easy work. I think the early stages of this idea would focus on creating awareness and taking advantage of the opportunity to educate. The next steps would then be to turn individual acts into repeated behaviors that grow into habits.

Photo of Swapna Bellare

Great idea Megan! I like how you have taken a formalized approach to reduce food waste. Here is another idea that analogous to yours: Eating Better at School