Food Waster

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Virginia Tech

Approximately 40% of all edible food is wasted each year, costing family approximately $1,500 a year. Consequently, we undertook a task for our client, Susan Chen, in an effort to combat this issue. Our client, currently a first year, graduate student at Virginia Tech pursuing a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, Food, and Exercise, requested that we create an online-based, public service announcement tool to raise awareness.

After several rounds of concept and design refinement, the solution was realized in the form of a website. The purpose of this website is to allow visitors to visualize the current and long term, extrapolated impacts to them and society from food wasted in just a single meal. Two videos were also created for this website to provide both an educational and entertaining experience while they learn more about wasted food in the United States.

The front end, i.e., webpage experienced by visiting users is ultimately an HTML document. It is also powered by JQuery to add a number of useful functionalities. One such function is an auto-complete feature so that users can dynamically see available options as they search for food types. On submitting their inputs, visitors will be shown a statistics page powered by D3.js, a JavaScript library for data-driven documents.

Node.js is used on the server-side to provide the user input and statistics webpages. When a visitor submits the food types and amounts wasted to the server, the server queries the MySQL database for the appropriate data. The MySQL database is built on top of two datasets, one from a study by the USDA Agricultural Research Service and another from a separate study by the USDA Economic Research Service. This provides 7-year spanning, nationwide unit price averages for numerous food groups to calculate the desired statistics.

Certainly, there were a few challenges that appeared during the project’s development. One was attempting to fuse two independently gathered datasets. Another was dealing with improper user inputs. However, as the issues were debated, they were eventually solved one by one.

Ultimately, the current product fulfills the required task and goal. Users can calculate their wasted food and from a single source, see the result of that and the impact on them and those around them. Nevertheless, the current richness of the data in the database and modernity of the webpage design means that there is still untapped potential for improvement for this product.

Food Waste, Food, Public Service Announcement, website, statistics, video, infographics