Our project proposes to pair-up UW food waste with local non-profit agencies in need through the design of an open source app. The app would facilitate the logistics and transportation of food waste from UW Food Services without having so many food products go to compost. This project could serve as a valuable learning opportunity for UW students, boost the sustainability rating of the UW, democratize the access to food waste for agencies who currently depend on Food Lifeline, giving the individual agencies information to act when they are in need. Furthermore, the project would create a national platform that other universities could lean on to reduce food waste around the country.
The UW prides itself on its commitment to sustainability. This project provides an opportunity for the UW to become a leader in food recovery programs in the U.S. Food waste is a major problem and contributes to overflowing landfills. The University of Washington feeds thousands of students, staff, and visitors, resulting in massive amounts of food that land in compost bins. While a few facilities on campus (e.g., the “eight,” located at McMahon, and the “District Market,”) partner with organizations like Food Lifeline to reduce their food waste, many UW facilities cannot connect with agencies in need. Food that cannot find its way to the dinner table due to a lack of organization, time, or money, is food that becomes wasted. While composting is a great alternative to the trash, it fails to feed those in need. Therefore, we propose a program that will enable all campus facilities to contribute their products to aid in the fight against food waste.
Student Leadership & Involvement
This project will be developed in a two-quarter Directed Research Group (DRG) in autumn 2017 and winter 2018 for ~ 15 students per quarter with students from two departments in the College of Engineering. The proposal team consists of student, Madison Holbrook, who is currently a Bachelor's student in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) in the College of Engineering (CoE). She has over 10 years of personal experience working with organizations, farms, and restaurants in food production and distribution. With her combined UX and personal experience, her insights will help guide the team and focus the project. The teams also consists of Irini Spyridakis, a lecturer in HCDE, who has an MS degree and over 8 years teaching and supervising students in the CoE as well as experience working in the user centered design industry.
Educational Outreach & Behavioral Change
In the first quarter of the DRG, HCDE students will conduct a feasibility study to determine the frequency and amount of UW food waste and receiving agency capacity. Students will interview stakeholders (e.g., Hub, McMahon, By George and U District Food Bank, NW Harvest, Food Lifeline). The information collected will culminate into data driven personas and a comprehensive report. The main users for the app will be UW Food Services and non-profit agencies. Their insights into food waste/donation practices will provide a platform that will set the stage for the second quarter DRG.
Next, students will design, create, iterate, and test the app, fostering UW and non-profit buy-in. The user-research team will create prototypes that will lead to a high-fidelity interactive prototype. The prototype will be utilized for user-testing and allow for validation and changes in the user interactions of the final app.
The team will develop and test the app that provides a platform for conversation and collaboration around food utilization. The final stage will be to present the app to the stakeholders and launch it.
Feasibility, Accountability, & Sustainability
We have been in contact with the following UW offices and people: the Business and Sustainability Manager for UW Dining with Housing & Food Services (Kara Carlson); the Public Health Program Manager with the office of Environment Health & Safety (Abbe Aberra); the Food Insecurity Specialist (Food pantry on campus) (Laurne Ternasaki) with the Division of Student Life; the Fleet Services Manager (George Donegan); and Transportation Services. Additionally, Madison has interviewed David Rey and Benton Litteneker, managers of the HUB and McMahon Food courts, respectively.
The app will allow the UW facilities to post what food waste is available that day for pickup with an alert system approach that will need to be user tested once we get to that stage. Non-profits such as the U-District Food Bank, Northwest Harvest, and Food Lifeline (to name a few) around the area will be notified of the available products, the quantity, and pick-up time. We will partner together using the app to coordinate, reserve, and collect food before it becomes waste.
With funding from the Campus Sustainability Fund and buy in from the UW, shelters, communities, and non-profits will be central to the success of the app. During the second quarter of the project, our user research team will connect with groups such as the following to try and find interested stakeholders with appropriate technical and people skills to keep the app in use. Possible entities include the following groups: Housing & Food Services, Division of Student Life, ASUW, UW Phi Sigma Rho Engineering Sorority, and UW Nutritional Sciences Program.
The feasibility and user research/design/development project will rely on hired student helpers at $11.50 an hour for 5 hours a week during the duration of the quarter. In addition, disposable food storage containers will be provided to UW Facilities for pick-up by Food Banks. During the coming months, we are hopeful that we can secure matching funds from external grants and in-kind support. We appreciate your consideration of this proposed budget.
Student Budgets (15 students spanning 20 weeks), $17,250.00
Validation Testing, $1,000.00
Disposable Food Containers:
Qty 100: Choice Full Size Foil Deep Steam Table Pan - 50/Case, $1,608.84
Qty 100: Choice Full Size Foil Steam Table Pan Lid - 50/Case, $2,376.00
Primary and Secondary Contacts
Primary Contact: Irini Spyridakis
Secondary Contact: Madison Holbrook