Pairing UW Food Waste with Non-Profit Agencies in Need

Executive Summary:

Close to 15% of American households struggle with food insecurity (USDA), while almost 40% of the food produced in the U.S. is never consumed (Baldwin, 2015). Laws are in place, like the Good Samaritan Food Donation and the U.S. Federal Food Donation Acts, that protect and encourage facilities to re-distribute their products, but many face challenges. Currently a few UW Dining halls are working with Food Lifeline. Unfortunately, Food Lifeline is overwhelmed and lacks the ability to support the growing demand. High percentages of food waste can be attributed to several challenges surrounding proper food waste disposal, challenges such as the following:

  • Lack of refrigeration space for soon to be donated food and need for increased pick-ups
  • Local agencies' lack of ability, time, or equipment to pick-up up food
  • Miscommunication leading to food waste and lack of trust

Our project will pair-up UW food waste with local non-profit agencies in need through the design of a website that would facilitate the logistics and transportation of food waste from UW Food Services without having so many food products go to compost. Over two quarters, Irini Spyridakis and Madison Holbrook will lead a team of 15 undergraduate and Masters' students. The team will research, design, build, and implement a responsive website for UW HFS Dining facilities to connect with local non-profit organizations.
The main education and outreach goal is to raise awareness and educate the UW community about food waste and recovery. This project will bolster the sustainable achievements of the UW and serve as a model that could be implemented outside the community. We hope to empower our team of students to see themselves as experienced food recovery ambassadors who will further sustainable practices in future education, jobs, and communities, exemplifying the motto, “each one, teach one.” 
The environmental issue we’re addressing includes both food waste and people who are food insecure. Food waste is one of the biggest contributors to landfills in the US, contributing to 14% of the United States’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum, 2017). With climate change and water scarcity, the use of 25% of all freshwater supplies in food production that ultimately results in food waste is unacceptable. 
The project will be managed by Irini Spyridakis and co-managed by Madison Holbrook and housed in HCDE. We will work closely with the following UW Offices: CSF; Kara Carlson, the Business and Sustainability Manager for UW Dining with Housing & Food Services (HFS); Abebe Aberra, the Public Health Program Manager with the office of Environment Health & Safety (EHS); Laurne Ternasaki, the Food Insecurity Specialist with the Division of Student Life; Becky Bullock, Director, Risk Financing & Consulting; and dining hall managers that Kara Carlson directs us to. Additionally, we will work with non-profit food agencies that are approved by Kara Carlson.
Project “Pairing UW Food Waste with Non-Profit Agencies in Need” is asking for a total of $17042.16 to secure food recovery, transportation supplies and partial compensation for students and managers.


Student Involvement:

Our proposal has already been informed by student involvement with stakeholders, both in the UW and the community, with a goal of identifying needs, problems, practices, and potential solutions. HCDE undergraduate Madison Holbrook has worked with HCDE Lecturer Irini Spyridakis to interview, email, and speak by phone with many UW people and offices: Kara Carlson, the Business and Sustainability Manager for UW Dining with Housing & Food Services (HFS); Abebe Aberra, the Public Health Program Manager with the office of Environment Health & Safety (EHS); Laurne Ternasaki, the Food Insecurity Specialist with the Division of Student Life; Becky Bullock, Director, Risk Financing & Consulting; George Donegan, the Fleet Services Manager; David Rey, Benton Litteneker, and Andrea Benson, Managers of the HUB, The 8, and Local Point Food Courts, respectively; and Transportation Services. Additionally we spoke with three non-profit agencies: the University District Foodbank, Northwest Harvest, and Food Lifeline.  
The UW people listed above helped us identify pain points in their existing food recovery system as well as UW policies, e.g.,  
*Insufficient refrigeration space in some campus food facilities, resulting in the need for two-four weekly pick-ups from non-profits.
*Insufficient number of non-profits agencies to pick-up food.
*Miscommunication with some non-profits in terms of food pick-ups.
*Unreliable scheduling in terms of food pick-ups.
*Need for ID badges or hats with agency logos for food pick-up personnel.

If the project is funded by the CSF, students will be involved in various tasks to address the pain points listed above as well as to identify further pain points through continued interviews of stakeholders identified by Kara Carlson. We will work closely with stakeholders to help improve communication, coordination, and logistics through the design of an interactive, responsive website, functional on both desktops and mobile. Tasks will include researching; designing, building, and testing the website; and outreach. 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 the majority of students from two departments in the College of Engineering: Human Centered Design & Engineering and Computer Science & Engineering. Additionally, some students from other units on campus (e.g., Geography, Nutritional Sciences, Social Work, Environmental Science) may register for the 2-3 credit DRG. HCDE will find a classroom for the weekly DRG managed by Irini Spyridakis and co-managed by Madison Holbrook.
The proposal team consists of Irini Spyridakis, a part-time HCDE Lecturer, who has an HCDE MS degree and has been teaching and supervising students in the College of Engineering for 8 years. She is passionate about sustainability issues and has added units on sustainable design and practices to her classes the past few years. Her experience in the UX design industry gives her real world project management skills to supervise a project from ideation to completion. Irini will liaise with HCDE to distribute grant funds. She will also work to match funds that the CSF provides with outside organizations to create a larger pool of resources, both fiscal and physical (e.g., plastic food pins, aluminum bins).
The proposal team also consists of Madison Holbrook, an HCDE Bachelor’s student. She has over 10 years of personal experience working with organizations, farms, and restaurants in food production and distribution. With her combined UX design work and personal experience, her insights will help guide the team and focus the project. Both Irini and Madison will leverage their experience, networks, and diverse contacts to ensure the project’s success and longevity.  
Irini will lead the two-quarter DRG, overseeing students and maintaining a regimented timeline consisting of weekly tasks and deliverables. Approximately half of the students in the DRG will donate their time in exchange for research group credits. The other half of students will be paid for their time as they design, build, test, and iterate the website over the two quarters and will not earn research credits. We are asking for funding for 7 of our 15 students who will play an integral role in designing and building the website; 1 student, Madison Holbrook will help design and build the website along with co-leading the project; and partial funding for Irini Spyridakis (she will donate 50% of her hourly rate to the project). Irini is currently a part-time lecturer at the UW, paid to teach two courses in HCDE each quarter; teaching and leading a research group is outside her job contract.
The project will consist of research, ideation and design, interactive prototype and website building, testing, and iteration. In the first few weeks of Autumn 2017, DRG students will further reach out to identified dining halls and other food services that HFS guides us to as well as potential non-profit agencies to gain further details concerning the pain points listed at the beginning of this section. Their insights into food waste donation and pick-up practices will inform our initial website ideation and prototypes that we will build in the second half of Autumn quarter. We will create high-fidelity interactive prototypes that will be utilized for user-testing, validation, and refinement of the website. The website will allow UW facilities to post a schedule that notifies participating non-profit agencies of food waste availability with ideal pick-up times. The website will allow UW facilities to connect with non-profit agencies so they can improve communication, coordination, and food collections, before food becomes waste.

During Winter Quarter 2018, students will continue designing, building, iterating, and testing the website, fostering UW and non-profit buy-in, providing a platform for conversation and collaboration around food recovery. The final stage in winter quarter will be to present the tested website to the stakeholders and launch it. Ensuring longevity of the project will also occur during the second quarter where students will reach out to all stakeholders and write manuals that document project procedures. Additionally, students will make a video documenting students’ journeys in this project.


Education & Outreach:

A main education and outreach goal is to raise awareness and educate students, staff, and faculty on campus about food waste and recovery. We envision this project will serve as a valuable learning opportunity for UW students. Students working on the project will learn to work effectively in teams, interact with UW offices and non-profits, further understand food recovery practices and their value, and understand the positive impact a well researched and designed website can have in connecting stakeholders in furthering sustainable practices.
We will encourage students to take what they have learned and apply these concepts to their own lives and communities, spreading the word about effective food recovery methods. This project will advertise and bolster the sustainable achievements of the UW while increasing students’ sustainable artifacts in their portfolios, showing industry that there are effective and efficient models that could be implemented outside the UW community as well. We hope to empower UW students who participate in this project to see themselves as experienced food recovery ambassadors who will further sustainable practices in future education, jobs, and communities, exemplifying the motto, “each one, teach one.”
Through social media, students will share sustainable practices with other students on and off campus by sharing effective methods they learned about reducing food waste and connecting stakeholders through utilization of a website. The short video that students create will  documents students’ journeys in the DRG, creating an artifact that others could refer back to as a guide for future food recovery projects. We will also encourage students to share the video and their own stories on their FB pages, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media outlets to raise the level of awareness with food recovery to the next level, informing and persuading people to take action in their own communities. We will ask that students share transferable processes, not sensitive UW data.
Buy in from the UW community and non-profit agencies will be central to the success of the website. We will need to assemble a team to oversee website updates when needed and keep in contact with all parties. In order to maintain the website and stakeholders’ participation, we will identify and work with student groups on campus who have the capacity to keep the project alive and continue to maintain working relationships with HFS, EFS, Dining Hall Managers, and non-profit agencies. When we have deployed our website in the 2nd quarter of the DRG (Winter 2018), students will write procedure manual on how to maintain the website, add or remove stakeholder names, and collect and report data. 
We have identified the following groups and will reach out to them in the second quarter of the DRG to assess ability and willingness to take over website maintenance and check-ins with all stakeholders: e.g., HFS, Division of Student Life, ASUW, UW Phi Sigma Rho Engineering Sorority, UW Nutritional Sciences Program, the Carlson Center, and a huge list of groups/RSOs identified by UW-SAN.

In order to publicize and gain recognition of the UW’s sustainable achievements, beyond social media mentioned above, we will reach out to the University of Washington Daily, The Seattle Times, The Seattle Globalist, The Stranger, KUOW, and other local news outlets, along with The Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) blog, bulletin, and news.

All students who take part in the DRG as well as those who maintain the website in the future will gain practical leadership skills while furthering their knowledge of food recovery problems and solutions.


Environmental Impact:
  • Energy Use
  • Food
  • Waste
  • Environmental Justice

Environmental Problem:

Food waste is a growing problem in the United States (US). Between 30-40% of food in the US goes uneaten, resulting in 133 billion pounds, amounting to $1 trillion dollars of wasted food (USDA, 2017; Smith, 2015). The biggest contributors to food waste are American households representing 44% of food waste and restaurants, representing 33% of food waste (, 2017). These numbers are troubling for a number of reasons. It is important to note that the energy, labor, land use, and water involved in food production is also wasted, resulting in increased CO2 emissions as the US is still primarily reliant on fossil fuels for energy production. The US cannot afford to continue wasting food production resources. The costs are staggering at 10% of the total US energy budget. With climate change and water scarcity, using 25% of all freshwater supplies in food production that ultimately results in food waste is unacceptable. Additionally, food waste is the biggest contributor to landfills in the US, contributing to 14% of the US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum, 2017).
The economic and environmental costs are further disturbing when food insecurity numbers are taken into account. Close to 15% of American households struggle with food insecurity (USDA). In 2015, 42.2 million people were food insecure (Alisha Coleman-Jensen et al., 2016). Increased food recovery work is needed now more than ever in order to address the larger crisis that also includes social and humanitarian concerns.  
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initiated the U.S. Food Waste Challenge that invites all stakeholders in the food chain supply system to join in and participate. Various stakeholders include food manufacturers, supermarkets, restaurants, universities, schools, local governments, farms (big and small), and agricultural processors. The Challenge asks all entities to reduce, recovery, and recycle. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has their own challenge and sits under the larger USDA Food Waste Challenge.The EPA provides information about how to improve sustainable food practices.
With a committed vision to improve food waste and with collaboration across various entities, we plan to reduce the UW’s CO2 footprint related to food waste and help HFS further reach its goals. The University of Washington is one of the nation’s leaders in AASHE’s rankings of sustainable dining halls and is paving a successful path for others to follow and learn from. Food waste affects everyone in the UW community at the economic, social, and environmental levels and we hope to educate and empower member of the UW community in our work with HFS and the CSF.
Alisha Coleman-Jensen et al., U.S. Dep’t of Agric., Econ. Research Serv., Household Food Security in the United States in 2015 6–7, 10 (2016),
Smith, 2015. January 22, 2015.


Explain how the impacts will be measured:

Reducing the amount of food that goes to landfill and compost will result in a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. We can measure the reduction in emissions by using the following formulas that Bill Horwath from the University of California Davis measured for well managed and less well managed compost piles:

1 kg CH4 per dry ton materials * 23 kg CO2 per kg CH4= 23 kg CO2

9 kg CH4 per dry ton materials * 23 kg CO2 per kg CH4 = 207 kg CO2

Regarding food insecurity, we can measure humanitarian success with the following numbers from the West Coast Climate Forum that found that with reducing food loss production by just 15%, over 25 million Americans could be lifted out of food insecurity and fed nutritious meals. According to the Food Recovery Network’s calculations, 10,000 pounds of recovered food could provide 8,000 meals.

Our educational impacts will be measured as follows:
*Students' hours contributed
*Numbers of students engaged
*Views of our how-to-be more active in food recovery video (will not show UW sensitive data)
*Pounds of food waste recovered
*Potential meals provided to non-profit agencies


Total amount requested from the CSF: $17,042
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Project manager $35 + 25.4 % benefits20 wks at 5 hrs/wk$4,389
Project co-manager $1520 wks at 6 hrs/wk$1,800
7 students $1520 wks at 4 hrs/wk$8,400
Inteplast Group PB100420R 10" x 4" x 20" Plastic Food Bag $22.071000/Box : 8 boxes$176.56
Bedford Industries Inc. 4" Red Laminated Bag Twist Ties$2.65 2000/Box : 4 boxes $10.60
Carlisle 10622C05 StorPlus Red Food Storage Box - 26" x 18" x 9" $37.4950 containers $1874.50
Tablecraft 1537N White 21" x 16" x 7" Polyethylene Plastic Bus Tub, Bus Box $5.89 50 boxes$294.50

Non-CSF Sources:

Project Completion Total:


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Research 2 week
Ideation 2 week
Prototype and building 2 week mid-quarter Autumn
Testing 2 week
Cont. prototype and building 4 week
Testing 4 week
Cont. prototype and building and launch4 week end of Winter quarter