Evaluating the Effects of Education on Student Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behavior Regarding Food Waste

Rebecca Busse, Purdue University


Food waste is a growing global environmental, economic, and social issue. One proposed method for reducing food waste is to increase awareness through education. This study is the first to evaluate the effects of environmentally focused lesson plans on student knowledge, attitudes, and behavior regarding food waste. The study was conducted with second and fifth grade classrooms in two Indiana elementary schools. Student responses were assessed using pre/post surveys and interviews, and by measuring student plate waste. Teacher interviews were also conducted to determine existing perceptions and uses of food waste education in the classroom, and to assess reactions to educational material. Results showed that the lesson plans were effective at increasing student knowledge about the environmental effects of food waste and solutions to food waste. Post-education, students were more likely to mention communication as a solution to food waste. Attitudes did not change significantly from pre to post-education. Additionally, weighing plate waste in front of students was shown to be an effective way to reduce plate waste in cafeterias. Change in reported behavior was correlated with plate waste reduction, indicating that solutions from the lessons were successful at helping students reduce their plate waste. Students with greater perceived control seemed to respond more significantly to the intervention and change in perceived control was correlated with change in behavioral intention. Lastly, teachers were more likely to implement food waste education in their classrooms in response to this intervention. Future studies should control for differences in demographics and use longer interventions with larger sample sizes of students.




Williams, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Environmental education|Education

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