Students food waste measured for 14 weeks at PAR and IKE

Students food waste measured for 14 weeks at PAR and IKE

A food waste study conducted by Brenna Ellison, a assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Consumer Economics, in Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall (PAR) and Ikenberry dining halls found that each student at Ikenberry dining hall approximately wasted the equivalent of one chicken breast per meal.
“Research shows that education about food waste is really low. People don’t understand the extent of the problem and probably don’t realize how much is being thrown out,” said Ellison.
Ellison said she was interested in conducting this food waste study because she learned that 18 to 24-year-olds are one of the most wasteful groups. She said she found this surprising because this age group is typically perceived as one the most environmentally forward thinking. “We wanted to go in the dining halls where this age group eats and actually see what the waste is and if we can reduce it by educating them,” said Ellison.
Ellison and 20 students collected and separated food waste by protein, fruits and vegetables, and other for 14 weeks in a row on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during lunch at PAR and Ikenberry dining halls. After separating the food waste, Ellison and her team collected data by weighing each of the three types of waste. After seven weeks, Ellison and her team put up posters in the Ikenberry to educate students about food waste to see if it would have any noticeable effect on students’ food waste compared to the students who ate at PAR, where no educational posters were put up.
Before conducting the study, Ellison and her team hypothesized that Ikenberry would have more food waste than PAR because Ikenberry had more food options. They also expected the amount of food waste to stay relatively constant at PAR because no educational posters were put up.
Ellison said that after putting up the posters in Ikenberry, it was unclear whether it had a large impact. “We saw the difference was in the direction we expected, but it wasn’t statistically significant,” said Ellison. When looking at the weekly averages, Ellison said that putting up the posters Ikenberry did reduce some food waste, but not by a lot. Ellison also said that PAR stayed relatively the same, with some reduction in food waste as well, but nothing significant.
However, Ellison discovered there was consistently more food waste at Ikenberry on Wednesdays than usual. On Wednesdays, the Ikenberry offers a self-serving ramen station where students can fill their bowls with as much broth, noodles and add-ons such as shrimp. Ellison said that on one of the Wednesdays, during the study, she collected five full ramen bowls in only 15 minutes. “To me, this is an example of needing to reevaluate your menu offerings,” said Ellison, “We need to strategize and talk about what did work, what didn’t, and if these other options are adjusting the environment.”

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