The Impact of Cafeteria Noise on School Lunch Consumption: A Plate Waste Study


      Although there is an established relationship between noise and youth's cognitive performance, little research exists to test the impact of noise in the lunchroom setting. This research examined the degree that school cafeteria noise effects food consumption through plate waste measurements.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants, and Intervention

      During the initial study stage, noise and sound levels were measured at four elementary schools within pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes for one day. Two schools, with the highest and lowest noise and sound levels, were selected for study inclusion.

      Outcome, Measures and Analysis

      Noise, sound, potential mediators, and plate waste (to assess food consumption) among were measured for five days.


      During the initial study phase, food waste observations were made for 304 meals with one pre-kindergarten class and four kindergarten classes in one school during one week. The research team collected school lunch trays and meal components were separated into bins relative to each food or beverage appearing on the school's daily menu. Bins were weighed in grams and converted to ounces at the end of each lunch period. For study inclusion, 145 meals were observed in the school with the highest level of noise and 128 meals were observed in the school with the lowest level of noise. Findings will be reviewed and show that school noise may be a contributor to varying levels of waste within food groups.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Focusing on school noise in the cafeteria may be one generalizable and low-cost approach to increase healthy food consumption and reducing plate waste.


      Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Nutrition