Publication Date


Executive Summary

Purpose: The current study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of a semester-long anti-food waste campaign regarding university student diners’ food waste behaviors.

Originality/Value: Food waste and specifically post-consumer food waste has become one of the most critical concerns in recent years. Post-consumer food waste has also become a major concern and area of interest on U.S. college and university campuses, as numerous administrators have started considering the impact of waste within their dining operations. However, there have been limited examples of how to successfully cut down on food waste that is produced by students. Therefore, this study offers insight into how compiling baseline numbers for food that is wasted on campus and actively engaging and informing students of their impacts, can successfully help decrease the amount of waste that is produced on a university campus.

Relevance to the Topic: Food waste on college and university campuses has become increasingly important to administrators and foodservice providers due to environmental and fiscal concerns. Finding ways to successfully decrease the amount of food that is wasted has the potential to both save money and improve regional waste management systems. However, to cut down on the amount of waste produced by students, they must first be made aware of their personal impact, and the overall goals of the university. Thus, by obtaining information regarding the amount of food that is wasted in a given week, and developing an anti-food waste campaign, administrators and foodservice providers may be able to recognize a decrease in postconsumer food waste on their campuses.

Design/Methodology/Approach: Utilizing a quasi-experimental design, the current study assessed the effect that a semester-long anti-food waste campaign had on student diners’ food waste behaviors. The project was conducted over lunch hours (11:30-1:30) and dinner hours (5-7) during the first and last full weeks of classes during the Fall 2016 semester.

Key Findings: Overall post-consumer food waste decreased by almost 10% regarding the two weeks that were tested, this despite an increase of nearly 2400 diners in the second week.

Implications for Practice: Results indicate that by actively engaging university students, and increasing awareness of food waste on campus, foodservice operators can potentially decrease the amount of food that is wasted, thus increasing sustainability efforts and lowering the overall negative impact on the global environment.