Impact of UglyFruit

View our infographic (use Google Chrome for best results)

Our main goal of this project was to convey how sizable of a problem hunger in this country is, and how food waste, which is also a huge problem which we all contribute to, is a possible solution to the problem. We want viewers to understand that while we, as individuals, waste a lot of food, grocery stores are also a big contributor to this problem. Lastly, we want viewers to understand that there are things that can be done about this, which are listed in our call to action section.

Our audience for this project is general American consumers, that are likely unfamiliar with food waste as an important issue and big problem. This is pretty broad but since almost everyone buy food, cooks food and eats food, this is relevant to everyone. Our intention is that this story would be put out by an organization such as Food for Free and their audience is the average, curious bystander who thinks the infographic looks cool so they make the decision to read through it.

The actions that we want viewers to take after viewing the infographic is: donating to Food for Free, signing the petition for the Food Waste Recovery Act, and pledging to stop overshopping.

While assessing the impact of our project, the first thing we asked our interviewees before they viewed the infographic, was the following: How many people do you think face food insecurity in the U.S.? How much food is wasted in the U.S.? While some interviewees had guesses much lower than the actual numbers, many were already familiar with this issue and guessed relatively accurate numbers, or numbers even higher than the actual amount.

For the people who were less familiar on the topic, the infographic did inform them of new information. When realizing that 40% of food is wasted, one person said “That’s a lot of food, it makes me feel bad” and another said “the growing image of the pile of food is memorable”. When asked what kind of changes they would make, one said, “I should try to plan more before going to the supermarket”, and another said “I’ll think about buying ugly fruit but then I think my kids probably wouldn’t eat it”. They also all said they would sign the petition.

For the people who were already familiar with the topic, the infographic did not have as much of an impact on them. They mostly were not surprised by the 45 million and 40% numbers, some even thought they seemed low. When asked what kind of actions they would take, they did not think signing the petition would be useful. One mentioned “legislation is the way to cause change, signing a petition won’t have any effect”, and another said “petitions don’t usually do anything, but if I was voting on something to donate food, I would”. Another interviewee added in context to ugly fruit, that she thinks “Americans are way too obsessed with aesthetics, Europeans are much better about it”.

Overall, it appears that our call to actions were not too successful. It seems like most viewers would not continue to do them. Our infographic, however, did engage the viewers. They read it to completion and seemed interested throughout. For the people already familiar with the issue, it does not seem like it will have much of any impact. However, for the people who were not, the infographic will at least be memorable to them, which will make them more aware of the problem in the future. Ideally, it could make sense to narrow down our audience to people less familiar with this issue, however there are difficulties with targeting that specific group.

Methodology of UglyFruit

View our infographic (use Google Chrome for best results)

We originally wanted to work with homelessness data again after the 5th mini-project due to the large quantity of data and relative cleanness, but could not find a concrete call-to-action to frame our story around. We brainstormed some alternative ideas; the strongest alternative was to tackle childhood obesity by drawing on CDC data, with a call to action of either encouraging kids to write letters to “Save Recess!”, or to help parents encourage their kids to play outside more. However, the CDC data was not available as a raw dataset, but only as already-prepared charts and graphs, and we also felt that the split audience of parents and kids would make it hard to find the appropriate tone for the project.

We pivoted to a project tackling hunger in America, drawing on data from Project Bread and the US Department of Agriculture, with a focus on reducing food waste using data from Food for Free. Since we were creating a webpage with a strong emphasis on narrative flow as opposed to hard statistics, we were able to concentrate on finding fewer, more salient numbers which most strongly supported our story (did you know that 40% of food in America goes uneaten or is otherwise wasted?), and back them up with graphics and animation. We also focused on looking for summary statistics that were pre-aggregated, as opposed to breakdowns along any dimension, to highlight that fact that this is a national problem; this meant very little data cleaning was necessary. The most difficult part of the data-gathering process was not finding appropriate statistics, but picking the most relevant portions. Because we had two main focuses (hunger and food waste), we first searched for multiple sources and datasets for each topic and collected them in a shared document. We then looked to focus our argument based on the data we had available; there is a wealth of information available on these large and complex problems, but with a fairly broad audience we needed to use numbers that brought the issues of hunger and waste to life without including too much. Another challenge was juxtaposing the hunger and waste data into a coherent narrative; we decided to open by introducing the immediate problem of hunger with some statistics as hooks, then pivot to food waste and a breakdown of the different ways it occurs.

One important technique that we wanted to incorporate was personal stories; we collected quotes from sources such as the Project Bread status reports in order to weave them into the narrative. However, we ultimately took the project in a slightly different direction of focusing on reducing food waste as a solution to hunger, and less on the problem of hunger itself, so we decided not to incorporate quotes about hunger. However, we did include a quote from the former President of Trader Joe’s about food waste in grocery stores, which helped add a more real-life connection to our website.