Understanding individual behavior and moral judgments on food waste in a university cafeteria

Özokcu, Selin
Along with the global food crisis, climate change, population growth, urbanization, enlarging middle class, and shifts in consumption patterns, food waste became a severe problem to tackle. Around one-third of produced food, which approximates to 1.3 billion tonnes per year, has been globally wasted throughout the food supply chain. A considerable literature has proliferated around the theme of food waste; and yet the drivers of consumer-level food waste in emerging economies remains unattended. This dissertation aims to understand why and how students produce plate leftovers in the university cafeteria and justify their food wasting practices by applying two approaches. First, apart from the traditional variables of the Theory of Planned Behavior framework, it tests the effects of perceived portion size, taste and palatability, perceived value for money, and self-reported environmental behavior on students’ behavior of leaving plate waste by surveying 479 students in the METU Cafeteria. Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Structural Equation Modeling results revealed that all factors, except attitudes and subjective norms, significantly affected the students’ behavior regarding food waste in the university cafeteria. Moreover, a follow-up study is conducted to understand students’ food wasting practice and justifications by interviewing 15 students. At this stage, Boltanski and Thévenot’s Economies of Worth framework is adopted to uncover the moral complexity of wasting food practices. Findings elucidate that the students employed various moral regimes to justify their food wasting practice and developed strategies to eliminate food waste. Overall, the present research contributes to understanding the complex issue of wasting food in the METU Cafeteria from two different theoretical and methodological perspectives.


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Citation Formats
S. Özokcu, “Understanding individual behavior and moral judgments on food waste in a university cafeteria,” Ph.D. - Doctoral Program, Middle East Technical University, 2021.