First Advisor

Jennifer L. Morse

Date of Publication

Winter 3-30-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Earth, Environment, & Society


Earth, Environment, & Society




Food waste -- Prevention, Food waste -- Public opinion, College students -- Attitudes -- Case studies, Universities and colleges -- Waste minimization -- Oregon -- Case studies, Environmental education



Physical Description

1 online resource (xii, 168 pages)


The urgent need for reform of USA and global food systems is evident in the pervasiveness of both food waste and food insecurity. Such an inefficient system strains the environmental, social, and economic systems on which it relies. Although policy and infrastructure changes are essential, consumers can play a significant role by decreasing their food waste, given that consumer waste represents 60% of the waste along the food cycle in developed countries. Incorporation of food literacy and food waste education in school curricula may provide a meaningful entry point for promoting food waste reduction skills.

This dissertation presents context on the suitability of food systems for science and climate change education. Practical implementation of this concept is then explored through a survey of 495 students at Portland State University that presents the reported knowledge, attitudes, emotions, and beliefs related to food waste. The underlying factors that influence student food waste behavior and intent to change such behavior are likewise explored. I also provide a description and assessment of a food waste diversion program, No Scrap Left Behind, that was developed and piloted at PSU.

I found that knowledge, attitudes, emotions, beliefs, and reported food-related behaviors were generally positive. Students were also interested in taking action and perceived that their food-related actions could make a difference. Intent to change food waste behaviors was influenced by: 1) sustainability actions, 2) food waste diversion actions, 3) attitudes about composting, 4) composting, 5) reported household food waste, 6) material reuse attitudes. Reported food waste diversion behaviors were related to: 1) intent to reduce food waste, 2) knowledge and attitudes towards composting, and 3) attitudes about reuse.

The measures of reported knowledge, attitudes, emotions, beliefs, and behaviors were not significantly influenced by No Scrap Left Behind programming, but actual measured food waste was decreased by one-fourth both over an academic year and within an academic term of programming. This indicates that students are amenable to food waste behavior change when given the encouragement and infrastructure to make that change. Further research may consider opportunities for food waste education beyond the cafeteria setting, particularly as an entry into more complex discussions around environmental, social, and economic systems and concepts.


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