Can Design Change Food Safety Behavior?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Acara 2011.jpg Can design change food safety behavior?

Students on a team from TERI University in Delhi, India and the University of Minnesota, including Master of Landscape Architecture student Allyson Czechowicz, asked questions like these during Acara’s multi-disciplinary course last fall.

Acara is a program through the Institute on the Environment that prepares young leaders to take on environmental challenges facing the world. The program’s annual Acara Challenge brings together international teams of students from around the United States and India to develop entrepreneurial solutions to specific sustainable development challenges.

In 2011 the theme for the Acara Challenge was food security. At the end of the semester, Czechowicz and her teammates presented their business idea for a food safety consulting and certification business would work with Indian street food vendors to help them learn how to serve safe food to consumers. Their program, BlueFood, would give street vendors logos to post on their carts to inform consumers that they serve safe food. The students believe this will attract additional consumers and incentives for vendors to change their food safety behavior.

“The World Health Organization defines [food security] as encompassing both quantity and quality of food,” said Czechowicz. “Through rigorous research and field data collection by our Indian teammates, we recognized this opportunity and its viability in comparison to many other ideas we came up with. We were attracted to this idea of improving food safety for its ease of geographical expansion and lack of capital start-up required.”

At the beginning of February, team BlueFood presented their business plan to a panel of judges in the final round of the competition. They placed Gold and were awarded $1500 in funding, up to another $1500 in matching funding, and 2 scholarships (including room and board) for the 2012 Summer Institute in Bangalore, India.

Czechowicz says she’s excited to visit India. The project helped her recognize skills design students bring to the table when working with engineering students and the international community, like divergent design thinking, graphics communication, having a sense for story, and speaking to an audience.

Her team will be fundraising to cover the remaining costs to travel to Bangalore. Check back in a few weeks when BlueFood’s Kickstarter funding page is up and running.

To learn about the Master of Landscape Architecture program visit their website.