Households end up tossing a lot of usable produce in the compost bin — and that’s especially true for families with children. Could a little food literacy plus some kid-friendly recipes help cut that waste? 

To find out, researchers from the University of Guelph launched a pilot program in 2020. Funded by Danone Institute North America, Weeknight Supper Savers targeted families with children between the ages of nine and 12. A total of 19 families signed up to learn how to make nutritious meals, save money, reduce waste, and get kids involved in the cooking process. 

The researchers began by collecting and analyzing the food waste each household produced, determining their baseline habits. After that, the participants took part in a four-week intervention that involved an online cooking class, meal-planning tools, tips delivered via text messages, and a cookbook with recipes designed to reduce food waste.

Those efforts paid off. When the Supper Savers team examined household waste at the end of the four weeks, the volume of avoidable waste had shrunk 34 per cent. And in a follow-up survey, parents reported being confident in reducing food waste. They also reported that the cookbook, classes, and meal planning tools helped kids participate in meal prep.

“Our team was excited to see how this program was able to get the whole family involved — both parents and their children,” says Jess Haines, the University of Guelph researcher who co-led Weeknight Supper Savers. 

Now, future research with a larger sample group is in the works to confirm these findings and build on the successful pilot program.