Simple print campaigns may be an affordable and effective alternative to reduce food waste, according to an analysis conducted by Kelly Whitehair, an assistant director at Kansas State University's Van Zile Dining Center who is also a December 2011 doctoral graduate in hospitality management and dietetics. After posters reminded students about food waste during meal services with a message that read "Eat what you take. Don't waste food," Whitehair found that they threw out 15 percent less food than before.
"All it took to change behavior was a trigger that made students think twice about the topic of food waste before they started eating," she says. "These were just posters I made at home on a word processor. This was not a fancy marketing campaign."
To conduct the study, Whitehair and students from an environmental issues in hospitality course analyzed and measured food waste off of more than 11,000 food trays and found that an average of two ounces of food was left on each tray, totaling nearly two tons of food thrown out during the six-week study. Some students threw out as much as 35 ounces of food scraps, while a third of students threw out nothing.
Whitehair also found that general demographics and beliefs toward sustainability had little impact on the student waste behaviors.