Empowering Innovative Collaboration by Visualizing the System

Navigating Collaborative Pathways to Mitigate Food Waste in Chicago's Food Service Industry


Project Information
January - May 2023 (14-Week)
Workshop: Design for Climate Leadership with the Institute of Design Action Labs

Emphasis on
System thinking
Facilitation methods                                          Sustainability

Skills Acquired 
System mapping
Project management                                    Data Visualization


Our journey highlighted the crucial need to incentivize sustainable practices, invest in local infrastructure champion leadership, leverage data, cultivate a food-valuing mindset, and empower community-driven solutions. This project not only illuminated the complexities of food waste, but also crafted sustainable pathways towards a waste-free future in Chicago's food service sector.

In a 14-week course collaboration of Design for Climate Leadership Workshop, out teams dove deep into the challenge of reducing food waste in Chicago's food service industry. Partnering with stakeholders from food service provider, food rescue, waste recycling, and policy development sectors, we mapped current practices, identified barriers, and carved out opportunities for impactful change in food waste management.


Design for Climate Leadership Class at Food Matter Think Tank 2.0 

Stage 1 (2 weeks)

During our 'Food Matter Think Tank 1.0' event, we focused on identifying barriers and priorities in food waste management. This collaborative effort brought together representatives from various sectors, including the City of Chicago, Food Service & Retail, Food Rescue & community Organizations, and Food Scrap Recycling

Shared Roadblocks among stakeholders

They also have similar priorities in mind, for example:

  • Communication gaps
  • Outdated and rigid regulations
  • Resource rivalry
  • Waste management woes
  • Strengthening stakeholder relations and engaging community
  • Bridgeing information gaps and ensuring that knowledge sharing becomes a robust pillar in collective actions and strategies
  • Transforming cultural perceptions and mindsets about wasted food
  • Clear and adaptable policies


Stage 2 (10 Weeks)

To tackle the complex issue of reducing food waste in landfills, our workshop conducted a ten-week study of food and waste flows in food service. This helped us understand the current state of food waste prevention, rescue, and recycling, and identify areas for improvement.


Stage 3 (2 Weeks)

At the Food Matter Think Tank 2.0 event, stakeholders gathered to discuss food waste and explore new ideas. They used 'Shifting System Cards' to propose changes in the food system and encouraging participants to think outside the box. 

The initiative focused on important questions such as viewing food as a human right and shared resources instead of just a commodity, and promoting the rescue of food scraps rather than their disposal


Identifying Opportunity Spaces for Collaborative Food Waste Management

In the journey towards minimizing food waste, we identified several opportunity spaces that could pave the way for collaborative, decentralized, and inclusive pathways, ensuring the continuity and enhancement of the work initiated to prevent food waste


Platforms for Collaboration & Knowledge Sharing

Inspiration from Collective Wisdom
Opportunity space that invite exploration and spark dialogue among stakeholders

NRDC's Food Matter Toolkit
The NRDC's Food Matter toolkit is a crucial guide for cities to manage food waste. It offers various policies and programs to effectively prevent and mange wasted food, emphasizing the importance of using diverse strategies

Envisioning Continuous Collaborative Spaces
Imagine a space where best practices and success stories in food reduction and shared. This space not only documents but also celebrates victories, big and small, in the journey to reduce food waste. It can inspire and provide knowledge for stakeholders in their food waste management journey.

Data as Enabler

Building Adaptive Data Systems
To understand resource flows in our food system, we need flexible systems for measuring and tracking that cater to different stakeholders, including community-led food rescue initiatives. 

Envisioning a Unified Data Platform
Imagine a platform that shares data on food reduction, providing a comprehensive and flexible data repository. This platform not only aggregates data but also meets the needs of different stakeholders, facilitating informed, collaborative, and strategic actions for sustainable food waste management.

ReFed: A Beacon in Data Management
ReFed is the nation's leader in data tracking, reporting, and sharing for food waste prevention. Their work highlights the power of using data to improve food waste prevention strategies in different sectors



Aman Bhardwaj
Anahita Dasgupta
Anish Patil                                                    Avani Chaturvedi                              Deepakshi Tulshan

Nafisa Shams                                        Pitchaya Thaveesakvilai
Rutuja Chavan
Sanjana Kripalani

Jennifer Herd, City of Chicago
Stephanie Katsaros, Bright Beat            Carter O’Brien, City of Chicago
AlexPoltorak, Urban Canopy
Joseph Taylor, Urban Canopy
Doug Bradley, Savor
Amy DeLorenzo, EPA


Weslynne Ashton
Maura Shea                                                  Azra Sungu


Chicago, IL
Phone: +01 224 249 8779
Email: pthvlai@gmail.com
LinkedIn: here 

© Pitchaya Thaveesakvilai 2023