Monday, April 12th, 2021
Fighting Food Waste With Portion Sizes
Problem Statement: The US wastes nearly 40% of our food, creating 125-160 billion pounds of waste annually, leading to high emission rates, resource depletion, and food insecurity. Research Question: What are the most effective waste mitigation and management strategies in the restaurant industry that could be utilized to produce a more sustainable environment? A survey administered on campus to classmates to investigate habits, behaviors, knowledge, and potential solutions around food waste yielded significant differences in how much of a meal was thrown out between fast food restaurants, full service restaurants, and buffets. While 25% of respondents throw out 11% or more of their meal at fast food restaurants, the amount of respondents throwing out 11% or more of their meal swells to 37% at full service restaurants. Asked why they throw this food out the most common responses included: Too large portions, ordering too much, inconsistent appetite, and leftovers brought home being thrown out. We deduce the differences are due to one size fits all plates, which are typically over the recommended calorie count. While a variation of small, medium and large sizes are often offered at fast food restaurants, no such options exist at full service restaurants. Males said the portion size of their meal correlated to their appetite 69% of the time but females said the correlation only occurred 57% of the time. Presented with various food waste mitigation strategies respondents were most in favor of the idea of customized menus with multiple portion options. 92% of respondents said they were at least somewhat likely to purchase a smaller portion for less cost. Meanwhile, 55% of respondents are somewhat likely to order smaller food portions for the identical price of the larger meal. Therefor in order to reduce food waste we propose implementing multiple portion options at restaurants.