How One Nonprofit used Graphic Recording to ✎ Highlight the Value of Food Waste Reduction

Sharing a graphic recording project I was excited to draw: The nonprofit ReFED has made it their ambitious goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. Their first stakeholder summit discussed roadblocks, surprising solutions and substantial financial benefits.

 Graphic recording for ReFED

Graphic recording for ReFED

ReFED is a collaborative nonprofit of businesses, foundations and government leaders aiming to increase food rescue and reduce waste. The team is drawing attention to their goal in a way that perks ears: by communicating the impact in dollars. They plan to “save resources, create jobs, alleviate hunger, conserve water, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions — all while stimulating a new multi-billion dollar market opportunity.”

To begin, ReFED spent months putting together a report that shed light on the problems of food waste – and the cost-cutting solutions. They share their analysis in gorgeous, user-friendly infographics (and a chunky official report). You can view highlights here

I had the pleasure of graphic recording for the ReFED team at their first stakeholder summit after releasing the report. Read about graphic recording (or live visual note-taking) here. At this meeting in Chicago, they gathered key players in food sector – nonprofits, chefs, city politicians — to introduce their findings, brainstorm roadblocks and opportunities, and talk through first steps to solutions.

With a personal passion for food waste reduction, I was glad to support ReFED’s project and learn more at the same time. Coming from 8+ years in marketing for a grocery retail brand, I had witnessed what real food waste can look like (I had been horrified to help discard an entire dairy section, due to loss of power on a hot summer day).

But I’d also seen what food waste reduction can do. I’d worked on for my Campus Kitchen, and even participated in a weekly 5am “Breakfast Brigade” to bring rescued toasted bread and hard-boiled eggs to a day-labor agency.

But there’s a lot more to this complex issue of reducing food waste across the U.S. Here is some of what I learned and graphic recorded at the summit:

  • Education is a clear theme; stakeholders say that some solutions are easy, but don’t do any good because groups aren’t aware.
  • Sell By and Use By dates are inconsistent, and so confusing for consumers that food is often thrown out earlier than necessary.
  • Big box stores sometimes discard food before it even makes it to the shelves. 
  • Labor can be an issue; sometimes restaurants and grocery stores don’t have the manpower to watch and use food strategically, so it spoils. 
  • Branding is important! An attendee visiting from London had been part of a successful campaign to reduce food waste there, and attributed lots of that success to well-done branding, that helped citizens identify the ongoing components of the program, learn about it, and participate more consistently. 
  • Chefs can create their menus strategically to reduce food waste dramatically. For example, they can use the same ingredient in more than one dish, or repurpose leftovers in beautiful ways. 
  • ReFED’s report offers 27+ solutions that are cost-effective, scaleable and feasible. 

You can find a few more tidbits on the graphic recording itself, which summit attendees will be able to refer to as a brainstorming reference as the effort to reduce food waste progresses.

Check out the graphic recording at high resolution here. >>

Interested in learning more, or hiring Urban Wild to graphic record at your event? Learn more here>>