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P1 Evaluating Food Waste Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors in College Students at a Midwestern University

      Background

      An estimated 40% of food produced in the United States is wasted, and approximately 90 billion pounds are discarded by consumers annually. Food waste threatens the environment and contributes to food insecurity. Identifying methods to reduce personal food waste represents a potential strategy to actively engage in behaviors that positively impact the food system and environment.

      Objective

      Explore current knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to food waste in college students. Results will provide details to assist in developing interventions to mitigate consumer food waste.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants

      A survey was released to 30,773 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a midwestern university. Questions addressed knowledge and attitudes associated with food waste, concern for environmental consequences, transtheoretical model stage, and application of mitigation behaviors.

      Measurable Outcome/Analysis

      A response rate of 6.3% provided a total of 1,931 responses for analysis. Recruitment was done via email, and data were collected via Qualtrics. A descriptive analysis was conducted to identify initial characteristics of this population.

      Results

      Evaluating the stage of change for reducing personal food waste showed 8% of respondents in precontemplation, 30% in contemplation, 4% in preparation, 57% in action and maintenance, and 1% in relapse. However, on a 5-point Likert scale from not at all knowledgeable (1) to very knowledgeable (5), 64% designated they were only slightly (2) or somewhat knowledgeable (3) about ways to reduce food waste.

      Conclusion

      Evidence suggests that this audience is open to change, yet do not have sufficient knowledge regarding ways to reduce food waste. Thus, guidance may be warranted to help them acquire the information and skills to be successful. Understanding these barriers and attitudes will allow for the development of specific, tailored approaches to waste reduction that acknowledge where students are and carve a path toward a more sustainable food behavior.
      Funding None.

      Appendix. Supplementary data