Written by Anika Marino, Content Management Intern
Practicing food sustainability with younger children
When approaching food waste with younger children, prioritizing education and kids’ likes and dislikes is incredibly important. It is important to remember that children will not know something that seems like common sense until they’ve been taught it. The concept of food waste may not make sense to children without constant gentle reminders, and lessons on why food waste is an issue.
Make sure to emphasize that kids should speak their mind and tell you what they do and do not like. Packing lunches that kids are more likely to eat reduces food waste, and making sure to pack lunches that are easy for kids to eat (e.g. fruit cut into slices) also helps to reduce food waste.
Practicing food sustainability in college
College is one of the most unique times and situations in a person’s life, both environmentally and personally.
College is a time of transition for many people, often the first time someone is not living with their parents and completely in control of everything in their lives. This includes food and food management. Students who rely on dining halls have access to a large amount of food at all times for the first time in their lives, surrounded by other students who are in the same situation.
Students have not yet had the opportunity to build their food management skills, timing and portions previously being dictated by school and family. Additionally, students may feel as though the food they are wasting does not actually have an impact, because they are getting food in an isolated environment that feeds thousands of people a day.
Students who live in dorms typically only have access to mini fridges, so they are much less likely to buy their own food on top of spending money to be on the college’s dining program. However, students who are not on the dining program and buy their own groceries have to be more conscious about what and how much they are eating in order to not waste their money. This means that students getting their own groceries are spending more time being conscious about food waste in comparison to those on the dining program.
The role schools play in food waste
Food sustainability also relies on the source — schools play a big part in reducing food waste. Some colleges have gotten rid of trays and decreased plate size to help reduce food waste, with promising results.
Some ways to reduce food waste in schools is to order food in shorter intervals, so that the school is better able to anticipate how much they will need and the food will not go bad. Another way is to let kids serve themselves and encourage smaller portions to mitigate over serving. Finally, a way to reduce food waste is to take people’s food preferences into consideration, and serve what the vast majority of students prefer.
Child Nutrition/School Cafeterias — CalRecycle
Why Do College Students Waste So Much Food? — The University Network
Addressing campus food insecurity and food waste — Stanford Cardinal Service
Fang ’26: Students and universities need to do more to curb food waste — The Brown Daily Herald