The Group Of Consumers Who Waste The Most Food May Surprise You

The Lempert Report
November 13, 2018

Research from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences finds that 18- to 24-year-olds, especially college students, have a higher tendency to waste food.

The researchers wanted to get a better idea why this age group, especially those who are college students, are such high food wasters and how their residence type -- on or off campus -- plays a role. The discovered that during the transitional time of young adulthood, many of the food management behaviors that might prevent food waste haven't been learned yet or haven't been necessary.

If college students have eaten all their meals in all-you-can-eat university dining halls, they say, the students may have not yet learned how to plan and grocery shop for meals. Other constraints like transportation and environment -- maybe no access to a refrigerator to store leftovers -- may also contribute.

Cassandra Nikolaus, doctoral candidate in food science and human nutrition and lead author of the study, says another important finding was that many of the young adults in the study didn't see their personal food-wasting behaviors as part of the overall problem of food loss and waste in the United States, nor did they think changing their behavior could help the problem.

A major theme that emerged was a sense of apathy about food waste, or the tendency to deflect. Many participants were not even aware of how much food is wasted, for example, in a university dining hall.

"We picked up on this desire to deflect. 'It's not me, it's them,'" Nikolaus says. 

The truth is – it’s all of us.