Impact of plate shape and size on individual food waste in a university dining hall

Rachel Richardson, Melissa Pflugh Prescott, Brenna Ellison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Approximately 31% of food is lost or wasted at the retail and consumer levels in the U.S. Among consumers, young adults have been identified as one of the more wasteful segments of the population. In the U.S., many young adults (ages 18–24) attend a post-secondary education institution where they are often provided housing and meals through the college or university. Because of this, university dining facilities make an excellent target for food waste reduction strategies. The purpose of this study is to evaluate one food waste reduction strategy: changing the plate shape and size in university dining facilities. Specifically, this study compares individual food selection, consumption, and waste between round plates (9″ x 9″) and smaller oval platters (9.75″ x 7.75″) in a self-serve, all-you-care-to-eat dining environment. Compared to larger round plates, smaller oval platters significantly reduced average food selection (359.9 g vs. 318.0 g, P<0.001), consumption (302.9 g vs. 280.5 g, P = 0.0012), and waste (57.0 g vs. 37.5 g, P<0.001). Our results suggest changing the plate shape and size can be an effective waste reduction strategy in all-you-care-to-eat dining halls at colleges and universities. Future studies should consider how such changes impact dietary quality and whether waste reduction effects persist over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105293
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
StatePublished - May 2021


  • College
  • Dining hall
  • Food waste
  • Plate shape
  • Plate size
  • University

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Economics and Econometrics


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