Art Student Creates Game to Educate Players on Food Waste and Sustainability

Posted Dec 16, 2022

By Kailey Mishler ’24

When the students enrolled in Art 1150: Design 3D were challenged to create a board game based on social issues and problems, Rachel Malek, a freshman art and psychology major, was immediately drawn to the environmental effects of food production. For her project, she created a game focused on food waste.

Art Student Create Game To Educate

“I’ve always been interested in sustainability and recycling. I was inspired to make this game because being zero waste is really hard, but I think teaching people about certain food groups might help people better understand the choices that they make when shopping or throwing their food away,” said Malek.

Malek’s board game is called “Let’s Taco ‘Bout Food Waste.” It’s a four-player game where each player has their own lunch tray-styled game board. Each game board has sections that are proportionate to reflect a balanced meal. The game is played with chips that have pictures of certain food on them, and they are color-coded to fill certain spots on the players’ boards. There are four different types of chips for each food group: vegetables, protein, fruit and whole grains.

As players take their turns, they choose a chip. On the back of each chip are “trash points” that are correlated based on the environmental impact of the food. The higher the points, the worse the environmental impact of the food. Malek even includes a small description on the back for players that explains why the food is ranked higher or lower. This is in hopes that players will learn more about each food group and try to improve their food decisions as the game progresses.

Malek gave the example that salmon is ranked as a six because it contains certain chemicals that contaminate water and hurt biodiversity. She also explained that mushrooms are ranked a zero because they are natural decomposers and actually help the environment. Players take turns until they have 12 total chips on their game board. The winner is the player with the least amount of ”trash points”.

While creating this game, Malek learned a lot about food waste and sustainability.

“I learned a lot about each food. Even healthy foods that we eat all the time because they’re good for us, are actually not good to grow all the time,” said Malek. “I found out that for a lot of these healthier foods, there’s a lot of fertilizer that goes into production.”

Multiple people have already had the opportunity to play this game. Malek’s Design 3D class has played it, as well as members of the Promise House at their vegan Friendsgiving event. Malek explained what it’s like seeing her game played first-hand.

“Watching people play is interesting because they’ll generally pick what they eat during the week. I hope they realize what choices they make that are sustainable. I think it helps to learn which of the foods you’re choosing are actually good, and which you might want to cut back on,” said Malek.

Learn more about the game (PDF) >