Perspective| Volume 53, ISSUE 5, P434-444, May 2021

Download started.


Examining Nutrition and Food Waste Trade-offs Using an Obesity Prevention Context

Published:January 29, 2021DOI:


      Obesity and food waste are related issues, both exacerbated by an overabundance of food. Efforts to reduce food waste can have varying unintended, obesity-related consequences, which further underscores the need for a systems approach to food waste reduction. Yet, these 2 issues are rarely examined together. It is the authors’ point of view that for nutrition educators and other public health practitioners to develop interventions that simultaneously address food waste and obesity, they need to understand how actions at the consumer-level may impact waste and its related food system consequences earlier in the supply chain.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access

      SNEB Member Login

      SNEB Members, full access to the journal is a member benefit. Login via the SNEB Website to access all journal content and features.


      Subscribe to Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


      1. World Health Organization. Obesity and overweight. Accessed September 11, 2020.

        • Aronne LJ
        • Nelinson DS
        • Lillo JL
        Obesity as a disease state: a new paradigm for diagnosis and treatment.
        Clin Cornerstone. 2009; 9 (discussion 26–29): 9-25
        • Nguyen DM
        • El-Serag HB.
        The epidemiology of obesity.
        Gastroenterol Clin. 2010; 39: 1-7
        • Rolls BJ.
        The supersizing of America: portion size and the obesity epidemic.
        Nutr Today. 2003; 38: 42-53
        • Newby P
        • Muller D
        • Hallfrisch J
        • Qiao N
        • Andres R
        • Tucker KL
        Dietary patterns and changes in body mass index and waist circumference in adults.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 77: 1417-1425
        • Jessri M
        • Wolfinger RD
        • Lou WY
        • L'Abbé MR
        Identification of dietary patterns associated with obesity in a nationally representative survey of Canadian adults: application of a priori, hybrid, and simplified dietary pattern techniques.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 2017; 105: 669-684
        • Jessri M
        • Lou WY
        • L'Abbé MR
        The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is associated with a more nutrient-dense diet and a lower risk of obesity.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 2016; 104: 1378-1392
        • Hall KD
        • Ayuketah A
        • Brychta R
        • et al.
        Ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain: an inpatient randomized controlled trial of ad libitum food intake.
        Cell Metab. 2019; 30 (67-77.e3)
      2. United Nations. Population. Accessed June 8, 2020.

        • Muth MK
        • Birney C
        • Cuéllar A
        • et al.
        A systems approach to assessing environmental and economic effects of food loss and waste interventions in the United States.
        Sci Total Environ. 2019; 685: 1240-1254
      3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Climate effects on health. Accessed June 10, 2020.

        • Springmann M
        • Clark M
        • Mason-D'Croz D
        • et al.
        Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits.
        Nature. 2018; 562: 519-525
        • Buzby JC
        • Farah-Wells H
        • Hyman J
        The estimated amount, value, and calories of postharvest food losses at the retail and consumer levels in the United States. EIB-121.
        US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Washington, DC2014
        • Vandevijvere S
        • Chow CC
        • Hall KD
        • Umali E
        • Swinburn BA
        Increased food energy supply as a major driver of the obesity epidemic: a global analysis.
        Bull World Health Organ. 2015; 93: 446-456
      4. US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Food prices and spending. Accessed September 24, 2020.

      5. Chandler A. Why Americans lead the world in food waste. Accessed November 9, 2020.

      6. American Farm Bureau Federation. U.S. food expenditures at home and abroad. Accessed September 24, 2020.

      7. Gunders D. Wasted: how America is losing up to 40 percent of its food from farm to fork to landfill. Accessed November 9, 2020.

        • da Costa Junior J
        • Diehl JC
        • Snelders D
        A framework for a systems design approach to complex societal problems.
        Des Sci. 2019; 5: e2
        • Sherwood D.
        Seeing the Forest for the Trees: A Manager's Guide to Applying Systems Thinking.
        Nicholas Brealey International, Boston, MA2011
      8. US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: nutrition standards for all foods sold in school as required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Accessed September 25, 2020

      9. US Department of Agriculture. Ag secretary Perdue moves to make school meals great again. Accessed November 9, 2020.

        • Taber DR
        • Chriqui JF
        • Powell L
        • Chaloupka FJ
        Association between state laws governing school meal nutrition content and student weight status: implications for new usda school meal standards.
        JAMA Pediatr. 2013; 167: 513-519
      10. US Department of Agriculture. Why should we care about food waste? Accessed September 11, 2020.

      11. World Food Program USA. The flipside of food waste. Accessed September 11, 2020.

        • Bellemare MF
        • Çakir M
        • Peterson HH
        • Novak L
        • Rudi J
        On the measurement of food waste.
        Am J Agric Econ. 2017; 99: 1148-1158
      12. Baker G, Calvin L, Gillman A, et al. Tomato tales: Comparing loss-reduction drivers and opportunities across U.S. fresh tomato supply chains. In: Minor T, Thornsbury S, Misra A, eds. The Economics of Food Loss in the Produce Industry. New York, NY: Routledge; 2020.

        • Gevaers R
        • Van de Voorde E
        • Vanelslander T
        Cost modelling and simulation of last-mile characteristics in an innovative B2C supply chain environment with implications on urban areas and cities.
        Procedia Soc Behav Sci. 2014; 125: 398-411
        • Minor T
        • Astill G
        • Raszap S
        • et al.
        Economic Drivers of Food Loss at the Farm and Pre-retail Sectors: A Look at the Produce Supply Chain in the United States.
        US Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC2020
        • Ellison B
        • Skorbiansky SR.
        Case study on processing tomatoes.
        in: Minor T Thornsbury S Misra A The Economics of Food Loss in the Produce Industry. Routledge, New York, NY2020
        • Neff RA
        • Kanter R
        • Vandevijvere S
        Reducing food loss and waste while improving the public's health.
        Health Aff (Millwood). 2015; 34: 1821-1829
        • Nikolaus CJ
        • Nickols-Richardson SM
        • Ellison B
        Wasted food: a qualitative study of U.S. young adults’ perceptions, beliefs and behaviors.
        Appetite. 2018; 130: 70-78
        • McAdams B
        • von Massow M
        • Gallant M
        • Hayhoe MA
        A cross industry evaluation of food waste in restaurants.
        J Foodserv Bus Res. 2019; 22: 449-466
        • Lachat C
        • Nago E
        • Verstraeten R
        • Roberfroid D
        • Van Camp J
        • Kolsteren P
        Eating out of home and its association with dietary intake: a systematic review of the evidence.
        Obes Rev. 2012; 13: 329-346
        • Juvan E
        • Grün B
        • Dolnicar S
        Biting off more than they can chew: food waste at hotel breakfast buffets.
        J Travel Res. 2018; 57: 232-242
      13. Kerman B. You didn't finish the pickled ginger: the peculiar rules at all-you-can-eat sushi joints. Accessed November 9, 2020.

        • Katare B
        • Wetzstein M
        • Jovanovic N
        Can economic incentive help in reducing food waste: experimental evidence from a university dining hall.
        Appl Econ Lett. 2019; 26: 1448-1451
      14. The Food Industry Association. Grocery store chains net profit. Accessed June 25, 2020.

      15. Produce Marketing Association. How consumer trends in grocery shopping are changing retail: PMA research. Accessed November 9, 2020.

      16. Buzby JC, Wells HF, Axtman B, Mickey J. Supermarket loss estimates for fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, and seafood and their use in the ERS loss-adjusted food availability data. Accessed November 9, 2020.

        • Buzby JC
        • Bentley J
        • Padera B
        • Campuzano J
        • Ammon C
        Updated Supermarket Shrink Estimates for Fresh Foods and Their Implications for ERS Loss-adjusted Food Availabillity Data.
        US Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC2016
      17. US Environmental Protection Agency. Food recover hierarchy. Accessed June 8, 2020.

      18. Pipkin W. Why this food bank is turning away junk food. Accessed June 8, 2020.

      19. Murphy K. Why students hate school lunches. Accessed November 9, 2020.

      20. National School Boards Association. School officials worry about wasted food. Am Sch Board J. 2014;201:1–13.

      21. US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Scientific report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines advisory committee. Accessed September 25, 2020.

      22. US Government Accountability Office. School lunch: implementing nutrition changes was challenging and clarification of oversight requirements is needed. Accessed November 9, 2020.

        • Buzby JC
        • Guthrie JF
        Plate Waste in School Nutrition Programs: Final Report to Congress.
        US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Washington, DC2002 ( Accessed November 9, 2020)
        • Aldridge V
        • Dovey TM
        • Halford JCG
        The role of familiarity in dietary development.
        Dev Rev. 2009; 29: 32-44
        • Cooke L.
        The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: a review.
        J Hum Nutr Diet. 2007; 20: 294-301
        • Anzman-Frasca S
        • Savage JS
        • Marini ME
        • Fisher JO
        • Birch LL
        Repeated exposure and associative conditioning promote preschool children's liking of vegetables.
        Appetite. 2012; 58: 543-553
        • Lakkakula A
        • James G
        • Zanovec M
        • Pierce S
        • Tuuri G
        Repeated taste exposure increases liking for vegetables by low-income elementary school children.
        Appetite. 2010; 55: 226-231
        • Cohen JFW
        • Richardson S
        • Parker E
        • Catalano PJ
        • Rimm EB
        Impact of the new U.S. Department of Agriculture school meal standards on food selection, consumption, and waste.
        Am J Prev Med. 2014; 46: 388-394
        • Schwartz MB
        • Henderson KE
        • Read M
        • Danna N
        • Ickovics JR
        New school meal regulations increase fruit consumption and do not increase total plate waste.
        Child Obes. 2015; 11: 242-247
        • Slusser WM
        • Cumberland WG
        • Browdy BL
        • Lange L
        • Neumann C
        A school salad bar increases frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption among children living in low-income households.
        Public Health Nutr. 2007; 10: 1490-1496
        • Prescott MP
        • Herritt C
        • Bunning M
        • Cunningham-Sabo L
        Resources, barriers, and tradeoffs: a mixed methods analysis of school pre-consumer food waste.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2019; 119 (1270–1283.e2)
        • Guthrie JF
        Integrating behavioral economics into nutrition education research and practice.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2017; 49 (e1): 700-705
        • Metcalfe JJ
        • Ellison B
        • Hamdi N
        • Richardson R
        • Prescott MP
        A systematic review of school meal nudge interventions to improve youth food behaviors.
        Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2020; 17: 77
        • Miller N
        • Reicks M
        • Redden JP
        • Mann T
        • Mykerezi E
        • Vickers Z
        Increasing portion sizes of fruits and vegetables in an elementary school lunch program can increase fruit and vegetable consumption.
        Appetite. 2015; 91: 426-430
        • Neff RA
        • Spiker ML
        • Truant PL
        Wasted food: U.S. consumers’ reported awareness, attitudes, and behaviors.
        PLoS One. 2015; 10e0127881
        • van der Werf P
        • Seabrook JA
        • Gilliland JA
        “Reduce Food Waste, Save Money”: testing a novel intervention to reduce household food waste.
        Environ Behav. 2021; 53: 151-183
        • Romani S
        • Grappi S
        • Bagozzi RP
        • Barone AM
        Domestic food practices: a study of food management behaviors and the role of food preparation planning in reducing waste.
        Appetite. 2018; 121: 215-227
        • Quested T
        • Marsh E
        • Stunell D
        • Parry A
        Spaghetti soup: the complex world of food waste behaviours.
        Resour Conserv Recy. 2013; 79: 43-51
        • Stefan V
        • van Herpen E
        • Tudoran AA
        • Lähteenmäki L
        Avoiding food waste by Romanian consumers: the importance of planning and shopping routines.
        Food Qual Prefer. 2013; 28: 375-381
        • Thyberg KL
        • Tonjes DJ.
        Drivers of food waste and their implications for sustainable policy development.
        Resour Conserv Recy. 2016; 106: 110-123
        • Srour B
        • Fezeu LK
        • Kesse-Guyot E
        • et al.
        Ultraprocessed food consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes among participants of the NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort.
        JAMA Intern Med. 2020; 180: 283-291
        • Yu Y
        • Jaenicke EC
        Estimating food waste as household production inefficiency.
        Am J Agric Econ. 2020; 102: 525-547
        • Conrad Z
        Food waste, healthy diets, and environmental sustainability: a guide for nutritionists.
        Nutr Today. 2020; 55: 5-10
        • Brunner TA
        • van der Horst K
        • Siegrist M
        Convenience food products. Drivers for consumption.
        Appetite. 2010; 55: 498-506
        • Tiwari A
        • Aggarwal A
        • Tang W
        • Drewnowski A
        Cooking at home: a strategy to comply with U.S. Dietary guidelines at no extra cost.
        Am J Prev Med. 2017; 52: 616-624
        • Larson NI
        • Perry CL
        • Story M
        • Neumark-Sztainer D
        Food preparation by young adults is associated with better diet quality.
        J Am Diet Assoc. 2006; 106: 2001-2007
        • Parizeau K
        • von Massow M
        • Martin R
        Household-level dynamics of food waste production and related beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours in Guelph, Ontario.
        Waste Manag. 2015; 35: 207-217
        • Heard BR
        • Bandekar M
        • Vassar B
        • Miller SA
        Comparison of life cycle environmental impacts from meal kits and grocery store meals.
        Resour Conserv Recy. 2019; 147: 189-200
        • Daniel C.
        Economic constraints on taste formation and the true cost of healthy eating.
        Soc Sci Med. 2016; 148: 34-41
        • Schanes K
        • Dobernig K
        • Gözet B
        Food waste matters - a systematic review of household food waste practices and their policy implications.
        J Cleaner Prod. 2018; 182: 978-991
      23. National Council on Aging. Economic security for seniors facts. Accessed June 25, 2020.

        • Wu KB
        Sources of Income for Older Americans, 2012.
        AARP Public Policy Institute, Washington, DC2013
        • Oakley AR
        • Nikolaus CJ
        • Ellison B
        • Nickols-Richardson SM
        Food insecurity and food preparation equipment in US households: exploratory results from a cross-sectional questionnaire.
        J Hum Nutr Diet. 2019; 32: 143-151
        • Skumatz LA
        • Freeman DJ
        Pay As You Throw (PAYT) in the US: 2006 Update and Analyses.
        EPA Office of Solid Waste, Washington, DC2006
      24. Steffen AD. South Korea has almost zero food waste, here's how. Accessed November 9, 2020.

        • Tilman D
        • Clark M
        Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health.
        Nature. 2014; 515: 518-522
        • Robinson-O'Brien R
        • Larson N
        • Neumark-Sztainer D
        • Hannan P
        • Story M
        Characteristics and dietary patterns of adolescents who value eating locally grown, organic, nongenetically engineered, and nonprocessed food.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2009; 41: 11-18
        • Pelletier JE
        • Laska MN
        • Neumark-Sztainer D
        • Story M
        Positive attitudes toward organic, local, and sustainable foods are associated with higher dietary quality among young adults.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013; 113: 127-132
        • Prescott MP
        • Burg X
        • Metcalfe JJ
        • Lipka AE
        • Herritt C
        • Cunningham-Sabo L
        Healthy planet, healthy youth: a food systems education and promotion intervention to improve adolescent diet quality and reduce food waste.
        Nutrients. 2019; 11: 1869
        • Sarjahani A
        • Serrano EL
        • Johnson R
        Food and non-edible, compostable waste in a university dining facility.
        J Hunger Environ Nutr. 2009; 4: 95-102
        • Kim K
        • Morawski S.
        Quantifying the impact of going trayless in a University Dining hall.
        J Hunger Environ Nutr. 2012; 7: 482-486
        • Thiagarajah K
        • Getty VM.
        Impact on plate waste of switching from a tray to a trayless delivery system in a university dining hall and employee response to the switch.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013; 113: 141-145
        • Rajbhandari-Thapa J
        • Ingerson K
        • Lewis KH
        Impact of trayless dining intervention on food choices of university students.
        Arch Public Health. 2018; 76: 61
        • Wansink B
        • van Ittersum K
        Portion size me: plate-size induced consumption norms and win-win solutions for reducing food intake and waste.
        J Exp Psychol Appl. 2013; 19: 320-332
        • Kallbekken S
        • Sælen H
        ‘Nudging’ hotel guests to reduce food waste as a win–win environmental measure.
        Econ Lett. 2013; 119: 325-327
        • Schwartz J
        • Riis J
        • Elbel B
        • Ariely D
        Inviting consumers to downsize fast-food portions significantly reduces calorie consumption.
        Health Aff (Millwood). 2012; 31: 399-407
        • Freedman MR
        • Brochado C
        Reducing portion size reduces food intake and plate waste.
        Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010; 18: 1864-1866
        • Vermote M
        • Versele V
        • Stok M
        • et al.
        The effect of a portion size intervention on French fries consumption, plate waste, satiety and compensatory caloric intake: an on-campus restaurant experiment.
        Nutr J. 2018; 17: 43
        • Visschers VHM
        • Gundlach D
        • Beretta C
        Smaller servings vs. information provision: results of two interventions to reduce plate waste in two university canteens.
        Waste Manag. 2020; 103: 323-333
        • ReFED
        Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide.
        ReFED, Berkeley, CA2018
        • US Environmental Protection Agency
        Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging: A Guide for Food Services and Restaurants.
        US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC2014
        • Priefer C
        • Jörissen J
        • Bräutigam KR
        Food waste prevention in Europe – a cause-driven approach to identify the most relevant leverage points for action.
        Resour Conserv Recy. 2016; 109: 155-165
        • Prescott MP
        • Cleary R
        • Bonanno A
        • Costanigro M
        • Jablonski BBR
        • Long AB
        Farm to school activities and student outcomes: a systematic review.
        Adv Nutr. 2020; 11: 357-374
        • Price J
        • Just DR
        Lunch, recess and nutrition: responding to time incentives in the cafeteria.
        Prev Med. 2015; 71: 27-30
        • Cohen JFW
        • Jahn JL
        • Richardson S
        • Cluggish SA
        • Parker E
        • Rimm EB
        Amount of time to eat lunch is associated with children's selection and consumption of school meal entree, fruits, vegetables, and milk.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016; 116: 123-128
        • Wansink B
        • Just DR
        • Hanks AS
        • Smith LE
        Pre-sliced fruit in school cafeterias: children's selection and intake.
        Am J Prev Med. 2013; 44: 477-480
        • Prescott MP
        • Grove A
        • Bunning M
        • Cunningham-Sabo L
        Characterizing and assessing the quality of state K-12 share table policies as a potential mechanism to reduce food waste and promote food security.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2020; 52: 21-30
      25. US Department of Agriculture. The use of share tables in child nutrition programs.∼:text=%E2%80%9CShare%20tables%E2%80%9D%20are%20tables%20or,who%20may%20want%20additional%20servings. Accessed November 9, 2020.

      26. Redman R. GMA, FMI hail FDA's support of ‘Best If Used By’ label. Accessed November 9, 2020.

      27. US Government Accountability Office. Date labels on packaged foods: USDA and FDA could take additional steps to reduce consumer confusion. Accessed November 9, 2020.