Plate Waste in School Lunch: Barriers, Motivators, and Perspectives of SNAP-Eligible Early Adolescents in the US


Objective To determine barriers, motivators, and perspectives regarding plate waste reduction of early adolescents. Design Trained interviewers conducted audio-recorded individual interviews with adolescents. Setting Elementary schools implementing the National School Lunch Program in Hawai‘i, Montana, and Virginia. Participants Early adolescents (n = 47, aged 9–13 years) from families receiving or eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits were recruited to participate. Phenomenon of Interest Factors influencing plate waste among adolescents and potential plate waste reduction strategies. Analysis Coders analyzed content and thematic data to identify code categories and themes. Results Main barriers to reducing school lunch plate waste were unsupportive school policy, undesirable food quality, satiation, and social influences. Key motivators to reducing school lunch plate waste were supportive school policy, including allowing students to share food with peers and save food to eat later; and social influences. Participants found it acceptable to throw away disliked food and unacceptable to throw away wanted food; they perceived that their peers did not care whether food was thrown away; and they thought their parents disliked wasting food. Conclusion and Implications Results suggest that several factors might allow for minimization of school lunch plate waste in the National School Lunch Program, including improvements in food quality, food policy, and social influences. Under these important themes, strategies to employ may include improving food preparation and taste, allocating more time for students to finish lunch, allowing students to self-select food lunch items, and permitting them to share and save their leftover food.




Zhao, Chenchen, Chloe Panizza, Kira Fox, Carol J. Boushey, Carmen Byker Shanks, Selena Ahmed, Susan Chen, Elena L. Serrano, Julia Zee, Marie K. Fialkowski, and Jinan Banna. "Plate Waste in School Lunch: Barriers, Motivators, and Perspectives of SNAP-Eligible Early Adolescents in the US." Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (08 Jul 2019). DOI:10.1016/j.jneb.2019.05.590.
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