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Reducing food waste: An investigation of the food waste literacy of year 7 students in a New Zealand school

Food waste is a widespread global issue. Food is wasted at various stages of the food supply chain and there are unique reasons for wastage at each stage. Whatever may be the reason, food waste has social, economic, and environmental impacts which can be felt globally. It is unethical to waste food when there are so many hungry people in the world. It is a waste of our precious resources and a burden on our precarious food situation. Food waste in landfills releases methane - a harmful greenhouse gas, which adds to global warming, and a harmful liquid called leachate which is toxic to the environment. Food waste is a major issue globally and also in New Zealand. Fortunately, food waste at the consumers’ level may be reduced by developing their Food Waste Literacy. I explored existing studies and ideas in Food Literacy. However, the current definition of Food Literacy only includes the health and nutrition aspect of food. Therefore, the inclusion of food waste in Food Literacy warrants an explicit need at this point in time. Therefore, I proposed the term Food Waste Literacy in this study, which is the literacy for the judicious use of food, by acquiring the ability to use the food produced efficiently, with an understanding of concepts ranging from the production to consumption of food. Food Waste Literacy may include developing knowledge, attitudes and values, and behaviour towards food waste. This literacy may be situated alongside Environmental Literacy and may be developed by implementing a similar framework. The purpose of this study was to explore and develop the Food Waste Literacy of Year 7 students in a school in New Zealand. Primarily, the focus of my study was (1) to explore the students’ Food Waste Literacy, (2) to design an intervention to engage these students in developing their Food Waste Literacy, and (3) to explore the effect of the intervention in activating the students’ inquiry and decision making about Food Waste Literacy. I employed a convergent parallel mixed methods design in this case study. For this purpose, I collected qualitative data using class observations and focus group interviews, which were analysed using the thematic analysis. For the quantitative analysis, I collected responses from a questionnaire, before and after the class intervention. To analyse this data, I used mean, median, and standard deviation under descriptive statistics. I also collected qualitative data from the class teacher through interviews, as she was another stakeholder in this intervention for developing the students’ Food Waste Literacy. Findings after the intervention indicated an enhanced Food Waste Literacy among the students and the teacher. There was a positive shift in the students’ knowledge about food waste and its various aspects including the reasons for food waste, ways of prevention of food waste, and its environmental, social, and economic implications. The students reported attitudes indicated their better decision-making involving food waste. Their reported behaviour suggested that they would make better decisions involving food purchase and consumption, which was also visible in almost negligible food waste in the classroom. However, some barriers were also identified which may influence the development of the students’ Food Waste Literacy. My study and its findings, highlights the gap in the existing concept of food literacy and informs the development of students’ Food Waste Literacy by creating appropriate opportunities in the curriculum.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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