How to design out Food Waste using systems thinking

On Thursday, July 30, OpenIDEO London partnered with Ultra Mega Jam, hosted an online discovery session. This was the first of a two-part session that illuminated our current food systems challenges, what’s not working, and how by changing our approach, we may remedy the impacts of poverty and food waste.

A community of game-changers attended the session to understand “How might we use systems thinking to support communities and organisations to design out food waste?”

The session was inspired by the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals that were approved by world leaders. These goals aim to combat climate change, end poverty, and fight inequality by 2030 that focused on goal 2 ‘zero hunger’. However, the online discovery session was geared more towards discussing food waste, food systems, and how a change to our current consumption could create a better future.

Speakers Itika Gupta, a Community Design Specialist, OpenIDEO and Josephine Liang, a Social Entrepreneur & Campaigner, Caulibox and Dare to care package guided the webinar.

Food poverty and waste are one in the same

Josephine Liang began the guest speaking portion of the webinar. Liang has extensive knowledge in food distribution and sustainability. She has worked on various social campaigns, and does sustainability consulting for various sectors.

She commenced her speech by saying, “We talk about food waste and food poverty as separate problems. However, they are symptoms of one problem: a broken food system.” She also pointed out that there is enough food produced around the world already to feed our current global population. The problem, she said, is the distribution and accessibility of this food.

Food deserts, Liang pointed out, “are still prevalent in many areas of the UK.” Meaning, there are still areas in this first-world country that make the accessibility to nourishing food a struggle.

Accessibility to food during the spread of COVID-19 was a prime example of a stressed food system. Lockdowns produced panic-buying behaviors, and travel restrictions made the distribution of food and other items a struggle, Liang pointed out. Empty shelves in the supermarkets were proof that our linear food system needs new circular patterns.

Implications of the virus made present food poverty worse. To mitigate this challenge, Liang went on to explain, “most of the food and items given to the public are coming from soup kitchens or surplus food from supermarkets and large food producers.” Donating and distributing surplus food, Liang said, is a great way to reduce food insecurity.

Another trend that began emerging stronger after the onset of COVID-19 was an increase in local food suppliers and options. Liang went on to explain that, “Due to the crowded and risky supermarket environment, 52% of shoppers said they would shop at a local booth or shop before entering the supermarket.” Greater shopping on the community level is another great way to promote sustainability and improve local economies.

Liang went on to highlight some organizations that are inspirational in the fight against food waste and ending food poverty, including Goodr, Daily Table, West Side Campaign Against Hunger, Every Table, as well as some fundraising options.

Reframing the future of food with systems thinking

Itika Gupta began her segment of the webinar by explaining the need for all of us to practice futurecasting. “Futurecasting,” Gupta explained, “is different from forecasting. You must be able to break away from trends, dream largely, and actively create the future you want to see.” Ending poverty and targeting food waste, Gupta stresses, must be done through aligned action and hopeful visions of the future.

She stresses that futurecasting in a small way, for example in our communities or neighborhoods, is the first step to futurecasting for the whole world. Taking trends and using them to create a future vision that is able to be tangible, is the goal. Once a vision is tangible, Gupta says, you can inspire others to follow you and your vision.

Gupta also explained the topic of Systems Thinking, which is necessary to make changes in any sector. Systems Thinking involves considering different, but interconnected aspects when creating a solution. A solution or idea must be looked at from six different perspectives: diet, environment, economics, culture, technology, and policy and government.

Finally, Gupta finishes her segment by sharing some viable ways to transform our food systems including, maintaining communities, supporting indigenous populations, weaving land and ocean systems, connecting biodiverse communities, and more.

Action through design

The webinar concluded with feelings of inspiration, gratefulness, and community: the true theme to solving many of our world’s issues, including poverty and food waste.

Participants worked together to frame problems and pain points from both speakers insights to see how human-centered design can be used in the next session (Ideation workshop) on Thursday 6th August.

If you want to learn more about Ultra Mega Jam, OpenIDEO or the next ideation workshop click here, to be apart of a better future!

Innovation | Strategy | Making a difference through writing, listening, talking and doing

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