Research Plan

Summary: 

According to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an average American family throws away $2000 worth of food every year. It is a costly trend, and people may not be even aware of it. 

One of the key reason that exacerbate household food waste issue is that, “Americans put too much stock in the expiration date”. Part of it is because people do not understand the intended meaning of the two kinds of dates (Sell by and best by) that commonly appear on food products.  And partly, because most people today, do not spend enough time in kitchen to know their food and it’s consumption cycle. Perhaps, they lack a sense of judgement to identify if the food is good. This leads to many consumers throwing food out on or before the date on the package, no matter what the date was intended to mean. This contributes to enormous food losses at home.   

As a part of my design process, I am proposing a research plan that would help me understand what these dates mean to people, if these dates inform their food planning, shopping cycles, ways people use to test the safety of their food (if any), what are the most common food items that are thrown due to this reason. 

Objective: 

  1. How the sell by & best by dates impact the psyche of an American consumer?
  2. How can people be convinced that sometimes the food is safe to consume even if it’s past ‘best by’ date? or if it’s even possible to break into this mentality that’s set in their minds as a safety standard?
  3. Are there any methods that people currently use to make a judgement about the safety of food ?
  4. What happens if a certain food item doesn’t have an expiration date? Ex: cooked food, food ordered from a restaurant. 
  5. Test “Know your food” sticker concept using paper prototype/ mock-up.

Methodology: 

I plan to explore these research objectives by conducting interview (6) with people in their homes (kitchens) as well as at the grocery store (immediately after they finish shopping). I hope to gain some insights based on these which would inform my further ideation and solution directions.