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From evaluation to action: testing the impact on food waste prevention through nudging strategies in school canteens
It is of public awareness that one third of the food produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted. About 35 kilograms per person are wasted every year in Catalonia (retail and households). It is important to highlight food waste environmental, social and economic impacts. These become greater when it occurs at the later stages of the food supply chain, such as foodservices in industrialized countries (understood as restoration services that work for a specific public such as school canteens), since more resources have been invested in the wasted products. Until now, most research has focused on analysing different aspects of food waste problem, but still there is a lack of data on food waste volumes and impact assessment of prevention strategies. In Spain, meals served at schools represent the 26.2% of the total meals served by foodservices sector, which are also the main meal of the day for more than half of the school aged kids. Additionally, organic matter represents the 68% of total waste produced by schools in Barcelona, including food waste from canteens. Therefore, preventing food waste in school canteens is vital. The aim of this paper is to explore the impact of multiple nudging strategies in school canteens to prevent dinners’ food waste. Nudging strategies aim at changing consumers’ behaviour in a specific way without forcing them to make a specific action, but making changes in their environment. They are well-known methodologies to improve diets in school canteens, and previous research claims their potential to prevent food waste in restoration services (university canteens and hotels). Considering the lack of data on food waste generation, also at the canteen level, it is necessary to generate a baselining to assess the impact of different interventions. Four schools from the metropolitan region of Barcelona are selected as pilot studies. We used a four-stage approach in all 4 pilots: 1) participant observation to understand the school canteen functioning, to determine the factors that might influence food waste generation and, to select the most appropriate food waste quantification methodologies; 2) quantification of food waste using the same method, adapted to each pilot study; 3) nudging strategy design according to the results from the pilot study; 4) implementation of the nudging strategy and evaluation of the food waste generation. By means of different test of variance we will determine the impact of different nudging strategies on food waste reduction at the canteen. The results of the publication are of greater interest for policy bodies, practitioners and researchers. The present study will contribute to tackle food waste by providing data on food waste volumes produced in the school canteens, testing quantification methodologies and analysing the potential of nudging strategies in preventing food waste in this sector. Therefore, it could lead to a cost-effective and empowering strategy to tackle food waste in the foodservice sector contributing to the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. Moreover, by providing innovative tools to schools it will help educating future responsible consumers and citizens.