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The Food Trooper Smart Tool Kit

Food Trooper aims to raise awareness of food waste in kids and promote a long term cultural change in the future generation of consumers.

Photo of Melissa Tardiff
20 15

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Food Trooper aims to raise awareness of food waste in kids and promote a long term cultural change in the future generation of consumers by bringing a challenge in the form of a game and providing engaging and fun to use tools that help kids to reflect on food consumption and waste in their own homes, their community and the larger world.

The Food Trooper Smart Tool Kit will be used to drive awareness of food waste at home and also support Food Trooper Challenge where kids will reflect on their own food consumption and waste, and compare that with other kids.

The Tool Kit includes these elements:

Food & Badge MagnetsKids can categorize the food by its freshness and urgency to be consumed by placing magnets, each representing a food category, in the appropriate badge. A good activity to do with parents.

The badge and food magnets proved to be the most engaging for kids during testing phase

Eat This Food box for storing leftovers in the refrigerator.

An Eat This Food box to encourage use of food most likely to spoil the soonest. We know that hidden food is often wasted

Newsletter with educational and challenge information for kids & parents.

A two-fold brochure with more details about the challenge

Food journal mobile app, used for the Challenge, where kids will record food that has been wasted in their own home.

Mobile Food Tracker that kids can quickly click on what was not wasted that day.

Food Trooper baseball cap to encourage a sense of community.

Food Trooper branded baseball cap

The FOOD TROOPER Challenge

The ‘Challenge’ game will be implemented by an after school program involving kids to reflect on the food they consume and waste during 1 to 2 weeks and comparing their results with their peers, using the food journal in the form of a mobile application. After the game is finished, results will be discussed with reflection by each student.

The kids will be asked to come up with their own solutions on how to best avoid food waste in their home. These will be shared and provide ideas for the next Challenge.

Our solution looks forward, attempting to shape the behaviours and mindsets of our kids, so that they become educated and conscious consumers. We intend to promote a cultural shift so kids grow up with a different mind set: not wasting food for them will be a matter taken very seriously.


We are looking into multiple channels to get Food Trooper into the hands of kids: after-school programs, school science clubs, direct to parents, partnerships.

User Journey

  1. After school program will receive TOOL KITS to be distributed to kids, including a pamphlet explaining how the challenge works
  2. 4th graders will receive THE FOOD TROOPER SMART TOOL KIT from their after school program
  3. Teacher will provide background information on Food Waste and talk with kids on how to avoid it in your home
  4. The teacher walks the student through the various elements of the Tool Kit that the kids will do at home
  5. The teacher explains how the Challenge works.
  6. Kids (troopers) bring Tool Kit home. Kids will take a look in the fridge and categorize the food using the badges and the magnets; and use the box
  7. To participate in the Challenge, kids will update their waste of food daily through the mobile app, borrowing the phone from their parents (see the screenshots of the app below). Each day, the teacher will provide a Food Waste FACT.
  8. Once the Challenge is finished (after 2 weeks), results tabulated and will be discussed in the after school group. Teacher to lead discussion with reflection by each student.
  9. The kids will be asked to come up with their own solutions on how to best avoid food waste in their home. The ideas will be featured on the food troopers website.
  10. These ideas will be used in the next challenge

Next phase

When kids finish the Food Trooper Tool Kit, there is the potential for them to graduate to becoming food rescuers, partnering with an organization like ZacSnacks in their city.

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

Test out the new digital prototype with age group to get feedback. The question we need to answer: is this something that engages a kid enough that they would use it everyday? Meet with an after school program (i.e., ACT at St. John the Divine) to introduce the Food Trooper Smart Food Kit as a standalone module, or club format. Use the prototype to gauge interest in the concept.

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

> Opportunities for collaboration within the OpenIDEO community > Web development for digital app > Iterations and co creative session for platform improvement > Identify tools which could help us measure results achieved with our program > Navigating after school or other community based programs for kids > Funding/sponsor recommendations > Early childhood experts who can help develop a lesson plan for teachers > Scaling up after initial tests/refinements

Tell us about your work experience:

Sum total of team's experience: We all love food and we all have kids and we would like to do something meaningful for our community > Simone is an art director/advertising creative with lots of experience in video > Melissa is a graphic designer with production experience > Juan is a strategist at a global non-profit

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • A student collaboration

How far along is your idea?

  • It was in the works before this challenge – it’s existed for 2-6 months

How would you describe this idea to your grandmother?

We created a game to be implemented through a school program where kids from 8 -10 yrs old will reflect on how much food they consume and waste, and also use some fun tools to understand how food is consumed and wasted at home

How is your idea unique to the space?

The uniqueness of this idea is that we want to focus on kids, we believe they will play a huge role in the not so distant future, and so we want to raise awareness at an early age so that they can become more conscious and responsible consumers once they become adults The second differentiating factor is that we want to do this through a game, to be engaging and fun for the kids and avoid any burden on the parents, we don’t want this to be “homework”.

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

> Kids to be involved and engaged throughout the challenge > Parents to support what kids are doing, to ask the kids about food and provide their own views and ideas > Educators to help introduce the challenge and help with the lesson plan

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

We plan to track success focusing on engagement and behavior change: 1. Track key stats from the application: % of kids that actually completed the 2 week challenge and % of kids that provided feedback on the impact of the challenge 2. Survey of kids after challenge to understand what they thought of the challenge, and what would they change 3. Interviews and focus groups to understand how the game has helped to change behaviours, and hence reduce food waste.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

> Refine prototype of the toolkit, and prototype application and set up new testing > Develop the supporting materials (guidance for the teacher to introduce the challenge, evaluation questions) > Identify 1 or 2 schools/programs that are willing to be part of a pilot


Join the conversation:

Photo of Carolina Mndz

This a great idea! in order to start a change we need to start with the younger generations! this can be the start of new cultural change.

Good luck!

Photo of Raig Adolfo

Great idea! Long term behavioral change comes from preparing the next generations. Very smart construct. 

Photo of Simone Rubio

That's what we believe as well. Thank you, Raig!

Photo of Brian Tang

Dear Melissa Tardiff , I think Food Trooper is a great idea!  Can I suggest that you incorporate Be an Urban Food Rescuer... Pokemon Go style! [UPDATE 6/10: Walk21HK CityTech Award Winner!]  - where we plan to educate, engage and empower individuals to be food rescuers including through crowdmapping and gamification.  For example, at the 9 year old founder's school fair last year, Zac contributed ZacSnax to be sold for fundraising purposes made from rescued fruit and fruit donated by his fellow students.  We hope to do more this year, and would love to collaborate with you to develop meaningful content for school children to be aware of the important issue of food waste, and more importantly, to empower them to be able to do something about it! 

Photo of Melissa Tardiff

Hi Brian, thanks! And would definitely love to collaborate with your program. I'm posting more details about Food Trooper Tool Kit today. We have an idea for adding in a game for kids to track what is in their fridge at home. lmk if you'd like to Skype or chat further.

Photo of An Tero

Amazing stuff! Such a great idea! I think things like that need to be encouraged in this world and education for children is everything! Even more against the waste! Congrats!

Photo of Simone Rubio

Thank you for your words Antero!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Welcome to the Refinement phase Melissa! 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 Melissa, we updated the link to the Refinement Toolkit. Please use this new link instead:

Photo of Olivia Paquette

Hello Melissa Tardiff,

I completely agree that kids should be our main target. However, I noticed there are no ideas for your Smart Tool Kit. Below are three valuable items I’ve thought of.

The first pamphlet is on how to prevent foods from going bad too quickly. Kids need to be educated on the proper ways to store food. To often food is wasted because it wasn’t stored in the proper conditions. This will also include information on how long the food should last if stored correctly. This will help people plan better before food expires.

Next I thought I recipe book would be helpful. Sometimes the most difficult part is coming up with recipes, especially when you don’t have many ingredients to pick from. Recipe books are often not used because of access to the internet. I think if everyone has access to one in their kitchen this will prompt them to use it more. Hopefully a recipe book will reduce the amount of wasted food due to lack of knowledge.

Lastly a pamphlet on where to send donations or expired food. Often food is thrown away because it’s a few days passed its expiration date. However, most of this food can still be used. Food is also wasted when people know they won’t use it, but let it sit in their kitchen anyways. People should be more encouraged to donate this food to local food banks. The problem is people aren't educated on where to bring this food. This pamphlet will include listings of local areas that accept donations or expired food.

I hope my ideas are helpful, Olivia.

Photo of Melissa Tardiff

Hi Olivia, very helpful ideas, thank you! We did have an info pamphlet as part of the Tool Kit (I have to post what we tested), but less detailed. I've seen that some of the ideas in this Challenge are around community fridges, or apps to share @Esther Li19 @foodconnection or @DFA NYU @Project Avocado. It would be great to see all of the ideas in one database, so as they progress, we can link to them, or advocate together.

Photo of Hannah Butland

Hi, Melissa
Your “Food Trooper Smart Food Kit” idea is a great way to get kids involved in helping this problem. The badge magnets are a cute idea for children. Parents can hang them on refrigerators for an easy and fun way to keep track of what they eat. It is also important to plant these ideas in the next generations heads. This will help solve the problem of food waste through each generation.
You mentioned wanting ideas on how to fund this idea. My first idea was to use the funding schools get for after school programs. This would work if you wanted to help out a few towns. If you want to take this idea nationwide I would consider reaching out to Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama does a lot of work on helping children learn about nutrition. Your “Food Trooper Smart Food Kit” might be of interest to her and her after school programs. I suggest writing a letter to her to see if she could help fund this idea. That could get your idea inlisted in schools curriculums nationwide.
Goodluck getting your idea up and running,
Hannah Butland

Photo of Melissa Tardiff

Hi Hannah, appreciate your comments! The badge magnets were definitely the fun part that the kids loved in our testing. And what a great funding idea, the Let's Move initiative! Some of their research mentions Sesame Street which might also be on our list! Thanks so much.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Melissa!

Have you thought of incorporating this idea into a lesson and offering the pack with a lesson plan to teachers? 

What are all the options for delivering this programme with pros and cons?

Photo of Melissa Tardiff

Hi Kate, thank you for your thoughts!

Our original idea was to deliver a Food Trooper Smart Food Kit to schools for a teacher to use in their classroom. We prototyped the Tool Kit with a pamphlet. I can see how a lesson plan would be a great way to provide a stand-alone module with the content in place.

We designed the elements so they will be delivered flat (taking a page from Ikea’s book) and the lesson plan could easily be included.

Interestingly, when we tested the Tool Kit itself with a parent and child, the feedback was that coming from a teacher, it felt like homework (especially tracking food).

That has us thinking about alternate channels: after school programs; neighborhood play groups; partnerships. Clearly, the advantage of a school district is the scalability and reach. It is clear that the design and usability of each piece a kid uses needs to have be mindful of the engagement factor (ie not look like or feel like homework). Some other directions we are considering: simplifying the measurement of food, tracking food waste digitally.

Photo of Amber Matthews

It would be really cool to have participations from parents so that the kids can prototype solutions at home.

Photo of Melissa Tardiff

Hi Amber, thanks for your comment! Our goal is to have the kids be change agents in their homes and engage their parents in being aware of food waste. Our original user journey had a Challenge where the kids tracked food waste at home.

That said, I do love the idea of kids prototyping their own solutions; perhaps that would be another Challenge! Appreciate your input

Photo of Kate Rushton

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

Photo of Melissa Tardiff

Thank you, Kate! Looking forward to further refining our idea!

Photo of Melissa Tardiff

@JamesBazakos what do you think about our idea?