Measuring Plate Waste with Family-Style Meals in Head Start: A Pilot Study


      Develop and pilot-test a standardized protocol for plate waste of family-style meals in Head Start

      Study Design, Setting, Participants

      A standardized protocol was developed after five observations. Four researchers pilot-tested the protocol by collecting plate waste and observational data in two Head Start classrooms in eastern NC during four seperate lunches. Approximately 18 low-income 3-5-year-old children were in each classroom.

      Outcome Measures and Analysis

      Plate waste was collected for 8 observations on 4 different days. Milk, entrée, vegetable, and fruit were measured. Before lunch, food was measured in large serving bowls. Post mealtime measurements merged all waste for each food group into its original bowl. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze waste percentage. Researchers identified challenges for collecting plate waste with family-style meals using observational notes.


      Overall percent wasted was approximately 26%. Fruit was the most wasted (29.31%), followed by vegetables (27.39%) and milk (27.13%). Entrees had the lowest waste (19.54%). The most wasted individual item was salad (60.69%); the least Beefaroni (7%). Challenges to measuring family-style plate waste included measuring spilled fluids, separating foods combined during the meal, measuring inedible portions, and measurement of waste for individual children.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Standardized methods for measuring plate-waste are needed to accurately assess dietary intake in settings that use family-style dining. Further refinement of the researcher-developed plate waste protocol is needed based on challenges observed during pilot-testing. More research is needed to develop standards for a wider variety of meals, and to determine feasible methods for measuring plate waste for individual children.



      Supplementary data