Every plate counts: Evaluation of a food waste reduction campaign in a university dining hall

Brenna Ellison, Olesya Savchenko, Cassandra J. Nikolaus, Brittany R.L. Duff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The foodservice industry generates food waste by disposing of unserved food in the kitchen as well as uneaten food from consumers’ plates. In all-you-care-to-eat dining settings, such as university dining halls or buffet-style restaurants, food waste can be problematic because there is little monetary incentive to take less food. In addition, university dining facilities primarily serve young consumers who tend to be more wasteful than the average adult, further increasing the likelihood of waste. Appeals to money-saving have generally been identified as the best motivator to reduce consumer food waste; however, alternative motivators are needed when the quantity of food and its associated cost are not directly linked in all-you-care-to-eat settings. The purpose of this study is to determine the efficacy of a food waste reduction campaign in a university dining hall. Consumer plate waste was collected, sorted, and weighed in a treatment and comparison dining hall for a semester to assess the impact of the campaign on the quantity and type of food waste. Results reveal that the campaign had a modest, though insignificant, impact on waste behavior, but there were changes in students’ beliefs related to food waste, which may be an important first step to achieving behavioral change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-284
Number of pages9
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
StatePublished - May 2019



  • All-you-care-to-eat
  • Education campaign
  • Food waste
  • Plate waste
  • University dining hall

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Economics and Econometrics

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