Food Hackathon Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Are you considering throwing a food hackathon? This event can effectively promote your company and your message. If you are looking to mitigate the food crisis, keep reading this guide to learn more about food hackathons.

What Is a Food Hackathon?

So, what is a food hack?

Essentially, a food hackathon is an event intended to generate new ideas and solutions to reduce food waste. Food security is a pressing issue in modern society as populations grow and resources shrink.

Food hackathon topics range from educating people about healthy eating, improving the convenience of food, and expanding its accessibility.

You can involve your community to address these issues. Food hackathons can enable your organization to gain insight into food-related problems from experts and volunteers.

Benefits of Hosting a Food Hackathon

Hosting a food hackathon has multiple benefits.

Gain Inspiration

When you host a food hackathon, you can get new inspiration from the participants. In your organization, you likely chat with the same individuals regularly. These people probably share similar ideas and viewpoints, so you might get stuck in a rut when brainstorming solutions.

By bringing in fresh eyes, you can benefit from new perspectives to analyze your food-related issues and deliver solutions. Food hackathons can innovate the office culture and renovate your mindset. You will meet new people, think outside of the box, and challenge your employees.

Scout Future Employees

That food hacker you just saw could become your next employee. If you find some promising talent at your hackathon, you could hire them to bring more of their unique ideas to your workplace. 

Hiring someone traditionally can be on the pricy side. However, finding talent with a food hackathon will cost only the event. Plus, you can get plenty of ideas from other competent individuals at a reasonable price.

You can find potential new hires in one day. You won’t need to search through hundreds of resumes for months to find the best candidate. Instead, you can network with everyone at once to see how they mesh with your work environment.

Still, try not to treat your food hackathon as a recruitment event. You want to generate ideas, not just interviews.

Develop a New Solution

Maybe you’re stuck in a rut. You might have one extra step to take to solve the problem, or you need to start from scratch. By sharing the documentation with people outside your company, they can take a stab at the issue and help you resolve the situation.

Raise Awareness About the Issue

Issues like expanding food access, promoting security, and reducing waste are often overlooked. Hosting a food hackathon can raise awareness about these problems and your organization.

If you run a successful food hackathon, you can get more people interested in your work and your cause. Additionally, you could raise donations to further your contributions.

How to Run a Food-Related Hackathon: A Full 8-Step Guide

Do you want to run the best food-related hackathon? Here’s a step-by-step guide.

1. Pitch an Event Idea

When you start planning a hackathon, you need a theme for the event. There are several categories of topics for food hackathons, including:

  • Sustainability
  • Health
  • Socio-economic issues

Brainstorm several event ideas. Meet with your employees to see what they suggest. You can browse through previous successful hackathons for inspiration.

Before you can proceed, you will need to create a proposal. It should include information about the purpose, scope, and duration of the event.

2. Pick a Venue

Hackathons can occur virtually or in person. If you opt for an in-person event, look for a venue with a large, open space and breakout rooms for team meetings and individual work.

For hackathons that rely on local community members, you will not need as much parking space as one that attracts individuals from other states.

Virtual hackathons will need a high-quality platform to sustain the workload.

Choose a venue with the purpose of your project in mind. Also, ensure you define a budget beforehand to avoid overspending on the location.

3. Choose Judging Criterion

The participants need to know what they are trying to accomplish before attending. You will need a clearly defined judging criterion and a set of rules. For a food hackathon, you should consider:

  • Accessibility: How easily can communities implement this suggestion?
  • Innovation: Does this idea differ from pre-existing solutions?
  • Scope: How well will the proposal satisfy the problem’s requirements?

Your rules can encompass the size of teams, duration of meetings, and available materials for a solution.

4. Acquire the Necessary Equipment

While some venues provide equipment, you might need to rent or purchase some for your food hackathon. Necessary supplies include:

  • Chairs
  • Tables
  • Power strips
  • Projectors
  • Extra routers
  • USB drives
  • Cables

For hackathons that last over 24 hours, you will need a room for napping and places to shower. As well, arrange plenty of options for food and beverages to keep everyone’s energy up.

5. Market the Event

Try to find sponsors to cover some of the costs of throwing on your food hackathon. You could get help from non-profits interested in the topic, government agencies, and companies with sustainability initiatives. Some people might make financial donations to your organization, but others could offer food, volunteers, and equipment.

Furthermore, make a web presence for your food hackathon. You could make a website, place ads, and build hyperlinks. Check that your website has plenty of information concerning the event, how to sign up, and any prizes.

You can market on social media and forums for a low cost. Place flyers around college campuses as well.

6. Look for Guest Speakers and Judges

While you do not need guest speakers for your food hackathon, they can attract more attendees. You will want judges to assess the project.If you would prefer not to spend too much, you could ask some of your employees to work as judges.

7. Prepare Well Before

The night before the event, ensure you have access to the venue. Start setting up the tables and chairs. Any preparations involving catering and equipment should be made three to six weeks in advance.

Put up signage to direct visitors to the bathroom, catering table, and breakout rooms. Also, display the event schedule in a highly visible location to inform people about kickoff, ceremonies, and speakers. 

Lastly, print name tags and possibly T-shirts for people working at the event.

8. Monitor the Event to Ensure It Runs Smoothly

Hire some volunteers to answer any questions that participants have about the event. Try to get some backup options for any issues you might encounter, such as losing the internet or running out of water.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Organizing Food Hackathons

If you want to organize the best food-related hack hackathon, make sure you avoid these mistakes.

Not Supporting Participants

Participants will need guidance and support as they develop solutions to the food crisis. Many people see events like a food hackathon as an opportunity to gain experience and to earn prizes. They want to test their knowledge in a real-world environment under stress. 

If you help them along the way, participants will gather these skills without struggling excessively. With this in mind, have volunteers available for mentorship. Each team should have an assigned person to provide motivation and guidance.

Skipping Out on Marketing

Even if you’re a major organization, you would benefit from the promotion. Marketing your event will ensure that you have plenty of attention on your hackathon. It will attract more individuals who may not be familiar with your work, which will provide more varied perspectives on the problem.

Veering Off Schedule

Food hackathons that last under 48 hours need to stick to the schedule. Last-minute changes will likely stress out the workers, volunteers, and participants. Of course, you might veer from the predetermined schedule if you want more people to register or only a few teams finish in time. 

To avoid these issues, try to set realistic expectations during planning. It’s better to have too much time than too little.

Lack of Focus

Your food hackathon needs focus. You should limit the number of challenges to avoid overwhelming the attendees. Also, ensure that everybody is on the same page regarding judging criteria. Restrict the tools available and reduce the scope to get streamlined solutions from the hackathon.

Skimping Out at the End

While many people participate in food hackathons for the experience, a prize can drive individuals to finish their projects sooner. Try to offer a competitive reward, such as an internship at the company. If you give out multiple prizes, more people may register due to the higher chances of winning something.

When it’s time to demo projects, you will want to keep everyone interested by:

  • Asking the mentors to confirm every team is ready
  • Hire an interesting host
  • Introduce the judges individually
  • Get someone to supervise the ceremony

8 Best Food Hackathon Ideas

When you think about food hackathons, you probably envision a food waste hackathon. However, there are more types of food hackathons that might suit your organization. For instance, Microsoft hosted a successful big data IoT food hackathon. Keep reading to discover more event ideas.

Food Waste

A food waste hackathon can deliver innovative ideas to reduce carbon emissions, save money, address climate change, and mitigate world hunger. Food waste and food loss plague many countries. You can use one of these events to generate solutions for the food supply chain that:

  • Use the food waste to generate energy
  • Transform the biomass into clothing
  • Donate the trash to farms
  • Redistribute the food to those in need

Food Insecurity

A food insecurity hackathon like Zero Hunger Games can address multiple areas, such as:

  • Raising awareness about food practices
  • Developing policy about food distribution
  • Changing food operations in crisis-stricken countries
  • Collecting donations more readily

Food Education

Some people struggle to know how to eat healthfully. Your food hackathon could concern a solution to expanding information about healthy eating and nutrition. You could also look into ways to teach people how to make a healthy diet more flavorful.

Food Processing

As more consumers demand healthy foods, those in the food industry want new technology that can increase the supply of nutritional options. Your food hackathon can explore potential ways to process high quantities of food without significant nutritional loss.

Food Production

Many researchers are looking into methods to produce artificial food with bioavailable nutrients. You could use your hackathon to cultivate ideas like 3D printing food and creating more dehydrated food packs. These concepts could address food insecurity if made more feasible than they are today.

Food Packaging

As we move away from single-use plastics, we need new food packaging solutions. Through a hackathon, you could come up with ideas like:

  • Edible food containers
  • Wash and return programs for grocery stores
  • Biodegradable packaging

Food Safety

Food safety protects the health of customers. Poor food hygiene can result in foodborne illnesses and poisoning. Your food hackathon can generate suggestions to avoid safety hazards and defects through better inspections, monitoring techniques, and quality assurance tests.

Food Convenience

Many people live in food deserts where they lack access to high-quality foods. Others live busy lives and do not have time to cook many healthy meals. Your food hackathon could consider:

  • Affordable nutritious recipes
  • Healthy instant meals
  • Food delivery programs
  • Cookbooks with easy and healthy recipes

Looking for the Right Platform to Put Your Food Hackers Together? Try

Are you looking to organize a food hackathon? Do you want to attract a team of food hackers to help solve the food crisis? Consider working with to spread the word about your company, get training before the event, and expand the visibility of your hackathon event.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and what we can offer your organization.

Final Points

A food hackathon can get your company out of a rut when trying to solve an issue. You can find new talent, raise awareness, and help put an end to the food crisis. There are many topics within this theme, so you can host annual hackathons to cultivate more interest in your organization. By following these steps, you can host a food hackathon to deliver long-term, global solutions.