Food Waste Campaign Research

A food waste audit at a multi-unit residential building.

Under the supervision of Principal Investigator Dr. Virginia Maclaren at the University of Toronto, Food Systems Lab (with Dr. Tammara Soma and Belinda Li as Co-Investigators) was awarded a Seeding Food Innovation Grant from the Weston Foundation to better understand the efficacy of awareness campaigns to increase awareness of the negative impact of food waste and encourage residents to take action to reduce food waste at home. We created and tested three types of household food waste awareness campaigns in the City of Toronto, with surveys and waste audits before and after to measure their effectiveness. Results from our study have been published in Sustainability, with more journal articles on the way.

Campaign Strategies

Informational Campaign
Informational Campaign

Participants receive information in an electronic or printed newsletter

Community Workshops
Community Workshops

Participants are invited to a series of workshops in their community

Online Trivia Game
Trivia Game

Participants are invited to play a trivia game once per week

Campaign Materials

We are happy to share our campaign materials for use in other projects and initiatives. Please credit the University of Toronto and Food Systems Lab if you are using any of these materials as well as let us know by email at so we can track how these resources are used beyond our research project.


Eat Your Leftovers!

Our baseline waste audit showed that 35% of the food we waste are prepared foods and leftovers. These are ready-to-eat items that we could simply reheat as a meal on their own, or combine with other ingredients to create new meals. Through additional analysis with survey data, we found that households that seldomly throw away leftovers waste less food.

Do Online Games Work?

We are seeing some promising results. The amount of edible food waste per person was lowest and decreased the most for the Online Trivia Game group.

Nudging Food Waste Reduction

Using the Motivation, Opportunity, Ability (MOA) framework, we uncovered some insights from research participant focus groups about how campaign tools like fridge magnets act as nudges to encourage people to think about and reduce food waste.

Focus Group Video

Participants share their experiences during focus groups that took place after the campaign was over. We made a short video featuring some of our participants and researchers.