Mine data for insights into food wastage

A forthcoming campaign by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to "compare the cost of food wastage and what the money could be spent on otherwise" is unlikely to engender much change in a consumerist society ("1 in 4 buys more food than needed: Survey"; last Saturday).

NEA's poll found that 81 per cent of respondents think they should reduce food wastage to save money, and 80 per cent are bothered about having to throw food away.

However, these sentiments do not appear to have translated into tangible action.

Will a new awareness campaign necessarily galvanise more Singaporeans, and to what extent?

What is also less clear is how different the new campaign will be, vis-a-vis programmes in the past.

The changing of mindsets or behaviour on a large scale is notoriously difficult.

Perhaps more information should be provided on how effective previous programmes have been, and how the NEA and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) intend to address challenges.

Was it the wrong channels used, which implies the need to use new media or focus on younger children in schools? Or was it that the messages or materials did not resonate with the target audience?

More insights can be gathered through the poll.

For instance, the campaign could be customised based on demographics - if bigger or higher-income families are more predisposed to food wastage.

Beyond the households, the NEA and AVA could determine the age groups which are more environmentally conscious.

Greater buy-in can be achieved if a national movement compels individuals to make small changes to their daily habits, and document and track these changes with incentives, so as to create network effects and reach more within the community.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline 'Mine data for insights into food wastage'. Print Edition | Subscribe