Food waste is a major problem in the U.S., and young adults are among the worst culprits.
Food waste is a major problem in the U.S., and young adults are among the worst culprits. Many of them attend college or university and live on campus, making dining halls a prime target for waste reduction efforts. And a simple intervention can make a big difference, a University of Illinois study shows.
Shifting from round to oval plates with a smaller surface area can significantly reduce food waste in dining halls, says Brenna Ellison, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics (ACE) and co-author on the study.
“Americans waste about 31% of the food that is available at the retail and consumer levels,” Ellison says. “All-you-can-eat settings [common in dining halls] are extra challenging, because there's not the normal incentives to try to reduce waste on your own. When you pay a fixed amount of money to go and eat, you want to get your money's worth.”
Ellison’s research team previously worked with University Housing at Illinois on an educational campaign to reduce waste.
Image: Students in a university dining hall. (Credit: University of Illinois)