This week is Food Waste Action Week, and three University of Adelaide undergraduate students are helping the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre in a major research project.
Thai Phuong Anh (Alicia) Nguyen, Xuan Li and Jia En Sit, in the final year of their Bachelor of Food and Nutrition Science degrees, have spent six weeks in Summer Research Scholarships. This saw them work with an Adelaide supermarket to take hundreds of photos of food products across its bread, dairy, fresh produce and meat sections, and then analyse the 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,” Xuan Li said.
Their findings will supplement the Fight Food Waste CRC’s major “Consumer Perceptions in the Role of Packaging in Reducing Food Waste” research project, led by the CRC’s REDUCE team.
REDUCE program leader, Dr Dianne McGrath, said 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,” McGrath said.
“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, said 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, explained that the students were 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,” Bozkurt said.
Alicia said 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,” she said.
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 said. “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.”