Exploring Individual Food Waste Patterns from In-Home Observation of Plate Waste

July 31, 2017

Collecting data about food consumption and waste behaviors in the normal day-to-day operation of a household is a challenging but an essential barrier to overcome to accurately assess and prioritize a number of proposed strategies aimed at reducing and recycling household food waste.  Self-report methods such as diaries remain the dominant measurement approach, but are often found to be biased because they rely on participants ability and willingness to accurately recall food eaten and estimate the amount consumed and discarded/wasted.  We will analyze plate waste collected over several days from all meals for more than 40 subjects that used the SmartIntake® smartphone app in their homes as part of ongoing nutrition studies.  This approach does not rely on participant report and has been shown to accurately measure the energy intake of adults with error of only 3.7% over six days in free-living conditions, and the method has been found to accurately measure macronutrient intake and intake of most micronutrients and vitamins during meals.  We will analyze the data to identify key empirical patterns concerning plate waste, correlations between plate waste, waste disposal, food choices, reasons to waste, and respondent characteristics.  Plate waste is estimated to constitute approximately 40% of all household food waste in other developed countries and represents a key focal point for addressing household food waste.  To our knowledge, this will represent the first analysis of plate waste collected in free-living household conditions.