EXPLORATION OF THE FOOD WASTE ENVIRONMENT IN THE UNIVERSITY SETTING AND ITS IMPLICATIONS TOWARD A SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEM
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Americans are throwing away an alarmingly high amount of food. As highlighted in this thesis project, a multitude of factors account for why food waste occurs, but also a significant potential exists for food waste reduction. The purpose of this research was to investigate the food waste environment in the university setting to better understand where to focus food waste reduction strategies. The volume of student plate waste was quantified, and the nutritional and environmental value of this plate waste was calculated. Further, a behavioral survey guided by the Theory of Planned Behavior helped to identify the key factors influencing food waste behaviors in this setting. Plate waste was found to be 5%-14% of all food served in the dining hall facility. The top three food groups that were most frequently discarded included starch and added sugars, fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Food waste related behaviors were found to be strongly influenced by having the confidence and skills for proper food management, feeling guilty about throwing food away, and having financial concerns related to food waste. The results of this research suggest that student plate waste is a significant problem with enormous potential for food waste reduction.