Lack of awareness leads to abundance in food waste among young adults


Elisabeth Neely

Food waste is commonly found in dining halls and restaurants on campus. A recent study suggests young adults, ages 18-24, are more likely to waste food due to a lack of awareness.

By Samantha Boyle, Assistant Daytime News Editor

Lack of awareness about the effect of food waste is leading young adults, ages 18 to 24, to waste more food than any other age group, according to the recent Wasted Food Study.

“Basically, (18 to 24-year-olds) only have so many years of experience grocery shopping and meal planning … compared to other age groups that have built up experience over the years. The younger age group has less information to pull off of,” said Cassandra Nikolaus, doctoral research assistant in Food Science and Human Nutrition and leader of the study.

People usually underestimate how much waste they actually produce, Nikolaus said. People should be aware of what their food behaviors are so that awareness of the issue increases.

According to the study, over 60 percent of food waste from developed countries is considered avoidable.

An average person throws out about 20 pounds of food each month and an average American family spends over $1,000 on uneaten food each year, according to a presentation hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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    “Food waste not only wastes the food, it wastes your money that you put towards the food. It wastes the time and labor that went into producing that food, as well as even the marketing of the food,” Nikolaus said.

    Steven Buchholz, sophomore in ACES, said even if food gets recycled into things like animal food, it still is a waste because the effort that went into processing the food is wasted and the initial consumers are now not getting the nutrition they could have gotten from that food.

    “You’re wasting something, and you shouldn’t be,” Buchholz said.

    The solution to this problem is as simple as limiting the amount of food that is put on a plate, especially in a buffet type setting such as the University dining halls, he said.

    There are signs in the Ikenberry Dining Hall describing food waste that were placed to increase awareness, Nikolaus said. These signs were a direct result of the data collected in 2016.

    “I know (signs in the dining halls) definitely affected some of my friends when it showed how much food you wasted because you don’t really think about it,” Buchholz said. “But when you see it in terms of the entire university population, maybe entire world population, it’s kind of disturbing.”

    One of the biggest issues for on-campus students is overserving themselves in the dining halls, Nikolaus said.

    “I would see a lot of people serving themselves food and then not liking it and then that leads to waste,” Buchholz said.

    He said he always tries to recycle food as much as possible when he cooks.

    “If you throw it away, it’s just a waste. It’s a waste of food, it’s a waste of money, it’s a waste of nutrition. It’s a waste of anything,” he said.

    Because younger adults are on their own for the most part, it could just naturally lead to more food waste, Buchholz said.

    “Food waste is an issue for everybody, so being realistic with goals about trying to reduce food waste and also being mindful that people like me who are studying this, waste food,” Nikolaus said. “So, it’s a constant practice that’s going to take improvement over time.”

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