Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question about the Food Waste Study or the Food Tracker App? Refer to the commonly asked questions below for answers!

Tracking the Primary Ingredient

For foods that contain multiple ingredients, try to track the food by the one ingredient that makes up most of the dish (the primary ingredient). The examples below show how to do this for different food items that contain blueberries. Sometimes the primary ingredient can be unclear. In these cases, use your best judgment. When there is no primary ingredient, such as a stew or casserole, you can mark the food as a “mixed dish.”

Weight Inputs

What does it mean to tare my scale?

To measure the weight of food waste without the weight of the bowl or container holding the waste, the scale should be tared, or “zeroed out,” to remove the weight of the container. You can do this by placing the empty container on top of the scale (at this point the scale reading will show the weight of the container) and then press the “T/⏻” button on the scale. The weight reading should now be 0.00 grams. You can place your waste in the container to be weighted and tracked.

My food is already in a container, and scale is not properly tared. What do I do?

It’s important to distinguish the weight of the container from the weight of the food discarded. Place an empty container on the scale and press the “T/⏻” button. The kitchen scale should now indicate “0.0 grams.” Now place your food waste into the empty bowl on the kitchen scale. The amount in grams on the kitchen scale is the weight of your newly added food waste. The weight will automatically be sent to your app over the Bluetooth connection.

How do I measure waste which includes a variety of food types, if the foods can be separated?

To measure a variety of food items consecutively, start by zeroing out the weight of an empty container, and then add the first food type to the container and input the weight. Keep the food and container on the scale and tare again to zero out the weight of the first input. Add your other food items one at a time, taring between each input. Empty and re-tare the container as needed.

How do I measure waste which includes a variety of food types, if the foods cannot be separated?

If the waste is primarily a certain food type (for example, a leafy green salad with add-ins), mark the waste as the food type to which most of the waste belongs (here, dark green vegetables). If the waste is a complex dish with no predominant component, mark the waste input as “Mixed Food.”

I'm cleaning out my fridge, freezer, or pantry, and am disposing an unusually large amount of food. Do I track it?

Yes. Any food waste disposed of during the course of the study should be tracked to the best of your ability. Aim to follow similar eating and disposal patterns as you do outside of the study.  While you should not take this time to do a deep-clean of the fridge if you would not have normally done so at this time, you should also not refrain from any typical cleaning or disposals. In short, dispose of food as you would outside of the study, and track as you go! 

I threw food away and forgot to track the volume or weight, what do I do now?

You’re not expected to dig in your trashcan! Approximate the volume to the best you can remember and indicate a “0” as the scale weight, as you would for disposals outside of the home. This input will be accounted for with volume only.

I have a scale at home, but I'm disposing food waste outside of my home. How should I track that?

When disposing of waste outside of the home, with no access to your Bluetooth scale, follow the tracking sequence as usual, including the volume estimation. On the Weight Entry screen, select manual entry and type “0” as the scale weight.

I have a scale at home, but fed food waste directly to my pet. How should I track that?

Follow the tracking sequence as usual, including the volume estimation. On the Weight Entry screen, select manual entry and type “0” as the scale weight.

Food Characteristics

What if my food item is not listed in the description of any option?

The category descriptions listed on the app are intended to serve as examples of the types of foods which belong to the given category but are not a comprehensive list. Select the category which most closely matches your waste item. A more complete list of foods belonging to each category can be found here, provided by the USDA.

I am discarding plate waste that was previously stored as leftovers. How should I track that?

Any food that has been stored as leftovers should be marked as “Stored Leftovers,” whether it is disposed of directly out of the fridge or off of your plate. If a component of your leftovers was used to create an entirely new dish, such as stew from leftover vegetables or meat, treat that as a separate dish and indicate waste as usual (e.g., “Plate Waste” for stew disposed from your bowl).

My edible food waste and scraps are grouped together. How should I track that?

For the most accurate data collection, it is essential that you track edible waste and scraps separately, identifying the primary food type of edible waste when possible. If your waste cannot be separated, mark your waste as “Mixed Food.” Try collecting scraps in a bowl as you cook and measure the scraps together at the end of the day.

I hosted an event or meal at my home, and guests produced food waste. Do I track their waste?

You should track all waste produced in your home during the study, including that of guests.

I brought food to share with others at an event outside of my home, and it wasn't finished. Do I track that waste?

If you or members of your household dispose of waste from your own plate at an event outside the home, you should track the volume as usual and mark the disposal location as “Other.” The weight of the waste should be input as “0,” similarly to restaurant disposals. Any uneaten communal dishes or unfinished food belonging to anyone outside of your household does not need to be tracked.

When I give my pet human food, it’s getting eaten, not wasted. Why do I track that?

While giving edible human food to your pets is a pet-owner’s decision and is preferable to throwing edible food in the waste bin, any food which could be eaten safely by humans but is instead fed to animals is considered to be wasted food for the purposes of this study. Whether your pet eats scraps from the dinner table or you specifically purchase human food with the intention of feeding it to your pet, include the food in your waste tracking!

Food Waste Tracker Study

Why should I care about food waste?

When we throw food down the drain or into the bin,  we’re wasting not only the valuable nutrients of the food, but also the land, water, energy, and resources that went into growing, preparing, and transporting the food. An estimated 40% of all edible food is lost or wasted in America, despite high levels of food insecurity throughout the country. And bits and pieces of waste add up, both in cost and in landfills. Annually, 119 billion pounds of food are wasted in the United States, representing over $408 billion. Food rotting in landfills releases methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. Tackling climate change can seem overwhelming, but reducing food waste has been identified as a top climate solution, and we all have the power to play a part!

Why should I track my food waste?

While researchers know much food is lost or wasted in the food supply chain, data about household food waste is very limited. This study aims to quantify the amount of food that gets wasted across American households.

How will this data be used?

Researchers will use the data from this study to identify patterns in waste behavior. These patterns can be used by numerous organizations to develop targeted interventions to reduce food waste amounts in the future.

Can my personal information be connected to my waste?

No—the MITRE Food Waste Tracker app does not collect any personally identifying information. Your data will be identified in data files based solely on an anonymous study identification number. MITRE will at no time be in possession of personally identifying information.   

How can I delete the app?

The MITRE Food Waste Tracker app can be deleted like any other app; depending on your device, you can do this by pressing on the app or double-tapping the app to access the “remove app” or “delete” function.

When should I delete the app?

You may delete the MITRE Food Waste Tracker app at any time that you decide you no longer want to provide entries in the app. If you are participating in a research study that uses this app, the app will stop accepting entries at the conclusion of the study, but you may also manually delete the app as part of the conclusion of the study.

Bluetooth kitchen Scale

Why didn't I get a scale?

This study intends to validate waste volume estimates against kitchen scale entries only with a subset of participants; not all those in the study are required to track the weight of their food waste using a kitchen scale. If you were told you would be receiving a scale and it didn’t arrive, please contact Gallup using the support contact information you’ve been provided.

Why is my scale not connecting to Bluetooth?

This can happen if your scale is not powered on or is out of range of your phone. Make sure your scale is turned on and stand near your scale as you connect with your Food Waste Tracker. You can also try this fix: On your phone, turn your Bluetooth setting off and back on again. Press the “Try Again” button on the app to reattempt the connection. 

The weight reading seems too high or too low. How do I fix it?

If the reading on the scale seems too high or too low, it may not have been properly tared. Tare the scale with an empty container, such that the reading is zero when the container is on the scale. You can tare your scale by pressing “T/ ⏻”. Then, add the food waste contents to the empty container on the scale. Confirm the weight measurement unit has been set to grams, shown by a “g” in the upper right corner of the scale display.

My scale is working, but the Bluetooth is disconnected. What do I do?

Refer to the instructions to attempt reconnecting to Bluetooth. If the connection continues to fail, press the “Manual Entry” button and type the weight in grams into the phone based on the amount displayed on the scale.

My scale is working, but the weight sent to my app is different from the weight listed on my scale. What do I do?

All weights on the app will be tracked automatically in grams. Check the upper right corner of the scale display to see the scale’s current weight measurement unit. If the unit displayed is anything other than “g,” representing grams, press the “UNIT” button until the display reads “g.” If the scale is set to grams and the automatically inputted weight is inconsistent with the weight on your scale reading, press the “Manual Entry” button on your phone and type the weight in grams as it is displayed on the scale.

What do I do if my scale is broken or malfunctioning?

If your scale is not functioning properly, confirm it has batteries, is powered on, and has been properly tared. Make sure to remove the plastic strip from the battery compartment on the underside of the scale. See instructions for taring your scale and connecting to Bluetooth. If the problem persists, or if your scale is physically damaged, please contact our team at FW.Support@mitre.org.

Why is my scale display showing "Err"?

This error message means there is too much weight on the scale. The scale can support a maximum weight of 5000 grams (11 pounds). If the waste is heavier than 5000g, please separate your waste into multiple entries to protect the weight sensors . Remember, food waste of different types should be tracked separately.

Why is my scale display dim?

The scale display dims when on standby. To reactivate the display, place an item on the scale. If the scale remains dim, check the battery indicator to see if the batteries are low (indicated by “Lo”) and replace batteries as needed.

Can I wash my scale?

The Bluetooth scale is not waterproof. Do not immerse the scale in water, and immediately wipe off any liquid spilled on the digital display or buttons. To clean your scale, you can wipe it with a slightly damp cloth followed by a dry cloth to wipe away any remaining moisture.

What do I do with my scale after the study ends?

If you received a scale as part of the Household Food Waste Study, the scale is yours to keep and use after the study ends. For example, you can use it to measure ingredients while baking, track calories, or access nutritional information.

If you have questions that were not answered in the FAQ above, and you are a member of the Gallup Panel, please use the Gallup support contact information you’ve been provided. If you are not a Gallup panel study participant, and have questions not answered in the FAQ above, please contact FW.Support@imc.mitre.org

Food Group Guide

As you use the Tracker App to record your waste disposals, please track the food item according to these groupings, based on MyPlate, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Guidance System.

More information about MyPlate can be found at https://www.myplate.gov/ 

Fruits Berries: blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, kiwifruit, raspberries, strawberries Melons: cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon Fruit Juice: apple juice, cranberry juice, grape juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, prune juice Other Fruits: apples, apricots, bananas, cherries, dates, dragon fruit, figs, fruit cocktail, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, limes, lychee, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papaya, passion fruit, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapple, plums, pomegranate, pomelos, prunes, raisins, rhubarb, tangerines Vegetables Dark Green Vegetables: arugula, basil, bok choy, broccoli, broccolini, chard, cilantro, collard greens, dark-green leafy lettuce, kale, mixed greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard Red & Orange Vegetables: acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots, pimento, pumpkin, red and orange bell peppers, red chili and sweet peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, vegetable juice Beans, Peas & Lentils: bean burger, black/ brown/ white beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, edamame, falafel, hummus, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, pinto beans, soy beans, split peas Starchy Vegetables: corn, green lima beans, green peas, parsnips, plantains, potatoes (white), tapioca, taro root, water chestnuts, yams, yuca Other Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, avocado, bean sprouts, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, ginger, green peppers, green beans, lettuce (iceberg), mushrooms, onions, red cabbage, seaweed, scallions, spaghetti/ yellow squash, zucchini Dairy Milk: buttermilk, skim, low fat, reduced fat, lactose-free, whole milk, flavored/ powdered milk, frozen yogurt, ice milk, ice cream, lassi, puddings, sherbet, smoothies Non- Dairy: soy milk, oat milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, soy or dairy-free yogurt Yogurt: all milk-based yogurts, kefir Cheese: American, cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, Swiss, feta, ricotta, queso</p>
<p>Protein Meats: beef, chicken, goat, ham, lamb, pork, turkey, venison Poultry: chicken, duck, goose, ostrich, pheasant, quail, turkey Seafood: Canned fish, catfish, cod, trout, haddock, halibut, herring, tuna, salmon, sea bass, sushi, tilapia, calamari, clams, crab, crayfish, lobster, mussels, octopus, oysters, scallops, shrimp Eggs: chicken eggs, duck eggs, fish eggs, quail eggs Nuts & Seeds: all nut butters, almonds, cashews, chestnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pumpkin/ sunflower seeds, tahini, sesame seeds, walnuts Soy Products: tempeh, texturized vegetable protein (TVP), tofu (made from soybeans), veggie burgers Grains Whole Grains: barley, brown rice, bulgur, rye, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, cornmeal, whole wheat bread, whole wheat cereal flakes, whole wheat crackers, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat sandwich buns and rolls, whole wheat tortillas, wild rice Refined Grains: bagels, biscuits, bread, breadcrumbs, cakes, cookies, corn flakes, corn tortillas, cornbread, couscous, crackers, cream of wheat, muffins, flour tortilla, grits, naan, noodles, pancakes, pasta, pie/pastry crusts, pita bread, pizza crust, polenta, pretzels, ramen noodles, cereals, crackers, rice cakes, rice paper, waffles, white rice, white sandwich buns and rolls Oils, Fats & Sugars Oils: Canola oil, Corn oil, Sesame oil, Sunflower oil, Olive oil, Walnut oil, Peanut oil Fats: butter, coconut oil, cream, palm oils, lard, shortening, stick margarine Sugars: candy, soda, sports drinks, molasses, syrup, brown/ white/ powdered sugar, honey Mixed Dish Any meal where a primary ingredient cannot be identified. May include, but is not limited to: burrito, casserole, lasagna, pizza, sandwich, soup, stew, taco Scraps Bones, core, leaves, peel, pit, rind, seeds, shell, skin, stalk, stem</p>
<p>
Fruits<br />
Berries: blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, kiwifruit, raspberries, strawberries<br />
Melons: cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon<br />
Fruit Juice: apple juice, cranberry juice, grape juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, prune juice<br />
Other Fruits: apples, apricots, bananas, cherries, dates, dragon fruit, figs, fruit cocktail, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, limes, lychee, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papaya, passion fruit, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapple, plums, pomegranate, pomelos, prunes, raisins, rhubarb, tangerines </p>
<p>Vegetables<br />
Dark Green Vegetables: arugula, basil, bok choy, broccoli, broccolini, chard, cilantro, collard greens, dark-green leafy lettuce, kale, mixed greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard<br />
Red & Orange Vegetables: acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots, pimento, pumpkin, red and orange bell peppers, red chili and sweet peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, vegetable juice<br />
Beans, Peas & Lentils: bean burger, black/ brown/ white beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, edamame, falafel, hummus, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, pinto beans, soy beans, split peas<br />
Starchy Vegetables: corn, green lima beans, green peas, parsnips, plantains, potatoes (white), tapioca, taro root, water chestnuts, yams, yuca<br />
Other Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, avocado, bean sprouts, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, ginger, green peppers, green beans, lettuce (iceberg), mushrooms, onions, red cabbage, seaweed, scallions, spaghetti/ yellow squash, zucchini</p>
<p>Dairy<br />
Milk: buttermilk, skim, low fat, reduced fat, lactose-free, whole milk, flavored/ powdered milk, frozen yogurt, ice milk, ice cream, lassi, puddings, sherbet, smoothies<br />
Non- Dairy: soy milk, oat milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, soy or dairy-free yogurt<br />
Yogurt: all milk-based yogurts, kefir<br />
Cheese: American, cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, Swiss, feta, ricotta, queso
Protein<br />
Meats: beef, chicken, goat, ham, lamb, pork, turkey, venison<br />
Poultry: chicken, duck, goose, ostrich, pheasant, quail, turkey<br />
Seafood: Canned fish, catfish, cod, trout, haddock, halibut, herring, tuna, salmon, sea bass, sushi, tilapia, calamari, clams, crab, crayfish, lobster, mussels, octopus, oysters, scallops, shrimp<br />
Eggs: chicken eggs, duck eggs, fish eggs, quail eggs<br />
Nuts & Seeds: all nut butters, almonds, cashews, chestnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pumpkin/ sunflower seeds, tahini, sesame seeds, walnuts<br />
Soy Products: tempeh, texturized vegetable protein (TVP), tofu (made from soybeans), veggie burgers</p>
<p>Grains<br />
Whole Grains: barley, brown rice, bulgur, rye, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, cornmeal, whole wheat bread, whole wheat cereal flakes, whole wheat crackers, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat sandwich buns and rolls, whole wheat tortillas, wild rice<br />
Refined Grains: bagels, biscuits, bread, breadcrumbs, cakes, cookies, corn flakes, corn tortillas, cornbread, couscous, crackers, cream of wheat, muffins, flour tortilla, grits, naan, noodles, pancakes, pasta, pie/pastry crusts, pita bread, pizza crust, polenta, pretzels, ramen noodles, cereals, crackers, rice cakes, rice paper, waffles, white rice, white sandwich buns and rolls</p>
<p>Oils, Fats & Sugars<br />
Oils: Canola oil, Corn oil, Sesame oil, Sunflower oil, Olive oil, Walnut oil, Peanut oil<br />
Fats: butter, coconut oil, cream, palm oils, lard, shortening, stick margarine<br />
Sugars: candy, soda, sports drinks, molasses, syrup, brown/ white/ powdered sugar, honey</p>
<p>Mixed Dish<br />
Any meal where a primary ingredient cannot be identified. May include, but is not limited to: burrito, casserole, lasagna, pizza, sandwich, soup, stew, taco</p>
<p>Scraps<br />
Bones, core, leaves, peel, pit, rind, seeds, shell, skin, stalk, stem