Research Article| Volume 54, ISSUE 1, P12-19, January 2022

Plate Waste Evaluation of Plant-Based Protein Entrees in National School Lunch Program



      To assess plate waste of plant-based protein entrees compared with regularly served meat-based entrees in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).


      Plate waste data were collected before and after introducing the plant-based entrees, using digital photography and the quarter-waste method.


      National School Lunch Program participants in grades 6–8.


      Two newly developed plant-based protein entrees were introduced into the menu cycle by replacing 2 regularly served meat-based entrees.

      Main Outcome Measure

      Student plate waste of plant-based entrees compared with entrees regularly served in the NSLP meal pattern.


      A total of 4,138 meal observations were analyzed. Ordinary least-squares regressions and 2-sample unpaired t tests were used to determine significant differences in waste.


      National School Lunch Program participants wasted plant-based entrees more than all other entrees served during lunch. Students wasted all or none of the plant-based entrees more than partial servings. There were no significant differences in waste between demographic groups for the plant-based entrees.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Plant-based entrees served as a part of the NSLP may lead to increased plate waste than meat-based entrees. Novel food pairings and visibility of legumes may have led to increased plate waste.

      Key Words

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