28. CityStudio: How Does the Public Understand “Best Before” Dates?


Project Title

How Does the Public Understand “Best Before” Dates?

Organization Name

City of Vancouver; CityStudio Vancouver


Food waste, public perception, best before dates, expiry dates

Related Course Concepts

Asset based community development

Organization Information

Organization Name

City of Vancouver; CityStudio Vancouver

Mission and Vision of Organization

City of Vancouver

Create a great city of communities that cares about our people, our environment, and our opportunities to live, work, and prosper.


Our mission is to innovate and experiment with the ways cities are co-created, while teaching students the skills needed to succeed in today’s economy and inspire action in the community and government.

Guiding Principles + Values

City of Vancouver

We conduct ourselves based on these six values:

• Responsiveness: We are responsive to the needs of our citizens and our colleagues.

• Excellence: We strive for the best results.

• Fairness: We approach our work with unbiased judgement and sensitivity.

• Integrity: We are open and honest, and honour our commitments.

• Leadership: We aspire to set examples that others will choose to follow.

• Learning: We are a learning workplace that grows through our experiences.

CityStudio Manifesto


Contact Information

Preferred Method of Contact

  • Best method(s) to contact: Email
  • Best day(s) to contact:Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays
  • Best time(s) to contact: Mornings, Afternoons

Project Description

Context: What challenge or issue does the project aim to address?

The top three reasons for wasted food in the home are

  • Over purchasing
  • Concern over eating food past the “best before” date (BBD)
  • Discarded left overs

The confusion and misunderstanding of BBDs contributes significantly to the 46% of food that Canadian’s buy and then discard. Concerns about eating past the BBD are often about safety. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency explains that “Best-before" dates do not guarantee product safety. However, they do give you information about the freshness and potential shelf-life of the unopened foods you are buying.” The most common date labels found on foods are “best before” dates, “packaged on” dates, and expiration dates. Education materials that increase consumers’ understanding of different date labels have the potential to build confidence in the foods they buy and consume.

Main Project Activities

Students are asked to:

• Research consumers' understanding of what the “best before” date means

• Identify consumer concerns about food safety, and what their options are for products near or past the date.

• Create mock-up materials and examples of educational materials informed by their research and make recommendations of who the City could partner with and where would be best to share, distribute or display the information.

• Make recommendations on the educational approach the City could take (for example do they recommend small poster displays in grocery stores? Or does it have to be an interactive experience for the messages to stick? Etc.)

• Out of scope: changing what the dates look like on products—Date labelling and other food labelling is the responsibility of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Expected Project Deliverable(s)

• A report on best practices and approaches of how to educate consumers about 'best before’ dates on food products

• Recommendations of the educational approach for the City to take: Messaging, the educational platform or type of materials, and partners and/or locations for promotion.

• Mock-ups of messaging and educational materials/platforms

Student Assets and Skills (preferred or required)

  • Excellent research and writing skills
  • Interest in research, literature review and creative problem solving
  • Familiarity with research methodologies
  • Interest in communications and messaging
  • Able to translate research outcomes into relatable content for the general public

Student Assets and Skills (to be developed through the project)

  • Team collaboration and task delegation
  • Improved/refined understanding of “best before” dates
  • Making a common misunderstood topic engaging
  • Fostering change through communications

Are there any mandatory attendance dates (e.g. special event)?

  • No

Is a criminal record check required?

  • No

Project Location

  • At UBC or at other locations selected by students.

Preferred Days of Week and Hours

  • The preferred time to work on the project is up to the students.

Related Community Service Opportunities for Students

  • Students if they chose could test their prototypes with the general public. Their findings would then be included in the report.

Required Reading

Project/Partner Orientation Materials

Students should review these materials prior to the first partner meeting:

Additional Project/Partner Orientation Materials

The following will be provided at the first community partner meeting:

  • N/A

General Resources

Expected Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

I hope students will learn about...

  • I hope that students, through their review of best practices and their critique of current messaging and education approaches, will be able to recommend compelling alternatives.

I think students will come to appreciate...

  • I think students will come to appreciate the importance of clear communications to support government policy.

Through this project, students will develop...

  • Through this project, students will develop their research and communication skills

Organizational Outcomes

Intended Project Outcome

  • An approach for educating Vancouver residents about “best before” dates so that more of the food that is purchased by consumers will be eaten rather than wasted.

How does the student project contribute to your organization's mission and long-term vision?

  • In the long-term, this project advances the City's mission and Zero Waste 2040 goals by contributing to our ability to support and influence the prevention and reduction of wasted food by Vancouver residents and food businesses.
source: https://wiki.ubc.ca/Course:LFS350/Projects/W2020/CityStudio2