Three University of Adelaide undergraduate students are proof the global movement of fighting food waste continues to gain momentum.
With Food Waste Action Week beginning today (Monday 7 March), the three hail from three different countries and have joined together in a fourth to help the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre in a major research project.
Thai Phuong Anh (Alicia) Nguyen (Vietnam), Xuan Li (China) and Jia En Sit (Malaysia) have just started the final year of their Bachelor of Food and Nutrition Science degrees. They spent six weeks of their main university holidays on Summer Research Scholarships from the University’s Faculty of Sciences.
The scholarships saw them working with an Adelaide supermarket to take hundreds of photos of food products across its bread, dairy, fresh produce and meat sections, and then analysing the resulting data.
“We had to take the information from the labelling in the photos and put it in a spreadsheet so we could examine how they compared across storage directions, usage directions and date labelling,” says Xuan Li.
Their findings will supplement the Fight Food Waste CRC’s major ‘Consumer Perceptions in the Role of Packaging in Reducing Food Waste’ research project, being led by the CRC’s REDUCE team.
REDUCE Program Leader Dr Dianne McGrath says the three students’ work has been invaluable in informing the ongoing research of the Consumer Perceptions work, and future date mark labelling and storage information projects.
“The work these students put in not only to capture so much data, but also to interpret and arrange the data in meaningful ways, has been exceptional,” Dr McGrath says.
“The Fight Food Waste CRC already has a strong postgraduate program, with many opportunities available for PhD and Masters students. To see such commitment and dedication from these undergraduate students has been fantastic, and their work helps us as we strive towards our vision of Australia without food waste.”
Adjunct Senior Lecturer with the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine Helen Morris says the scholarships are available to undergraduate students who have completed at least two years of their program of study, providing an opportunity to work on a real-world research project over their summer break.
Senior Lecturer Dr Hayriye Bozkurt, also from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, says explained that the students were very excited to have the opportunity to work together as a research team, collaborating with Fight Food Waste CRC on this important project.
‘It gave the students a taste of what it might be like to undertake postgraduate study, such as Honours,’ Dr Bozkurt says.
Alicia says the project was a great way to keep busy over the summer break while also helping her understand her options beyond her undergraduate studies.
“It was definitely a lot of work, but I enjoyed it – I’m interested in doing Honours so it was a good way to do something that was beyond my normal studies,” Alicia says.
For Jia En, undertaking the scholarship was an opportunity to combine her passion for reducing food waste with her studies.
“There’s a lot of food waste in the world, and we know that it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions,” Jia En says. “I’ve always had that personal interest in doing what I can to reduce food waste, and I think we all have that responsibility to reduce our waste outputs, including food.”