Food Systems for Health

Improving Diet Without Increasing Food Waste 

August 17, 2022

In 2017 Professor Sara Benjamin-Neelon and Associate Professor Roni Neff assessed the food consumed and wasted by children before and after South Carolina implemented a new policy for foods served in childcare and preschools.

The research, funded by the Initiative, observed the quantity and calories of food served and quantity and percent of food discarded, by food group and nutrient, during the same time period in South Carolina and North Carolina – a state without a policy change.

Researchers found that despite a common belief that children will discard more food if served healthier meals, there was no increase in wasted food after the new policy went into effect. They also found that children’s consumption of fruits and lean protein increased in South Carolina after the policy, but they drank less milk after the policy’s shift toward low or nonfat milk.

Overall, their findings added to the evidence that healthy eating policies may not increase food waste and, at the same time, may improve aspects of young children’s diets. The findings from this study were shared with several key stakeholders in South Carolina, and can guide future policy improvements. 

Their research findings were published in two articles in Nutrients, and presented at the 2018 Obesity Society national conference in Nashville, Tennessee and at the 2018 Annual Conference of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society in Madison, Wisconsin. 

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