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Positive Impact

Do students and working adults think differently about food waste?

One third of the food produced is being wasted around the world. In fact, around the world, a surface area larger than China is used to grow food that is never eaten.

With one billion people going hungry around the world each day, preventing food waste is the single most important area where we can make a difference as a food services company.

Our recent study, 2020 Sodexo Food Waste Consumer Insights Research, has shown a clear link between the value we place on items of food and the food we throw away. 

We’ve also noticed a difference between the way students and working adults think and behave when it comes to food waste. 

Food waste awareness is higher amongst working adults

Food waste is considered to be an important environmental issue - but only when prompted. We noticed that the level of awareness is higher amongst working adults (74%) compared to students (68%). 

Fewer students think regularly about food waste compared to working adults in every key moment where we interact with food: when planning or doing their grocery shopping, cooking a meal, eating at a restaurant, eating at their university or college dining halls or when delivery. 

This is especially true when they are planning or doing their grocery shopping, moments during which 63% of working adults think about food waste compared to 57% for students.

In our site observations, working adults spoke a lot about ‘education’, ‘values’ or ‘setting a good example for their children’ in not wasting food. Students, on the other hand, were more interested in the environmental impact of food waste.

Does perception of food value increase low-value item food waste?

As part of our study, participants were asked to select the food issues that concerned them the most from a long and varied list. For many, the price of food was considered to be a more important issue than food waste. However, food waste was considered to be of higher importance on average than health related issues (fat and sugar content).

We noticed that the answers were more balanced for the students than for working adults. The price of food has been identified as the top issue of concern with 59% for working adults compared to 26% for students.

Both students and working adults agree that food waste depends on their personal actions, and yet both groups acknowledged that they regularly waste many different kinds of food items. Globally, the more expensive or more valued food types are wasted less, which is line with the fact that cost is the main food issue of concern identified by both students and working adults. 

At least 1 out of 3 working adults acknowledged wasting either bread, pasta and rice or vegetables. While about 1 out of 4 students acknowledged wasting each of these items. This is compared to meat, fish or desserts where the acknowledgement of waste was less than 1 out 5 for both students and working adults alike.

Through this survey, we gained a further understanding of the perception of and behaviors around food waste in these settings. We hope to improve how food services providers can engage with consumers and identify solutions to prevent food waste.

October 16, 2020

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