Food Environmental Impacts and Actions

 

Wasted Food Measurement Study – Oregon Households

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is committed to reducing wasted food – Oregon’s governor has committed the state to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030.  The “Wasted Food Measurement Study” is one of several efforts DEQ has taken to address this issue.
   
The Oregon Wasted Food Study tracked wasted food in both urban and rural households—using quantitative and qualitative research methods—to increase our understanding of how much, what, and why food is discarded by Oregonians.
 
Conducted by Portland State University’s Community Environmental Services, the study included three phases, which are described in detail below. 
 
Key findings include:
 
  • Of all food waste thrown away by households, 71 percent could have been eaten (i.e., it was not bones, shells, peels, etc.)
  • On average, Oregon households throw away 6.3 pounds of food per week (or 2.3 pounds per capita).
  • Fruits and vegetables are the most commonly discarded food that could have been eaten.
  • There were no significant differences in the amounts of wasted food generated among demographic groups, such as household size or type, urban or rural, or income level.
  • The top three loss reasons for throwing away food were: 1) food is moldy or spoiled, 2) household members didn’t like or were tired of eating a food, and 3) food was not good as leftovers.

Download the final summary report

Detailed reports are also available for each of the three Phases:
 

Phase I

The first phase of the study consisted of open-ended interviews with 32 Oregon residents.  These interviews were designed to identify key themes applicable to the larger topic of wasted food in Oregon households, themes that informed subsequent research in Phases II and III.
 

Download qualitative interview results

Phase II

In the second phase, PSU researchers conducted a telephone survey of 486 Oregonians statewide.  Survey questions covered the following:
  • What are the perceived barriers to reducing wasted food? 
  • What are the perceived reasons for wasted food?
  • What habits or behaviors do households engage in that promote or avoid wasting food?
  • What level of knowledge do people have about ways to reduce wasted food?
  • What beliefs, attitudes or values are related to food waste behaviors?

View Oregon Wasted Food Survey results

Phase III 

The study culminated in an intensive mixed methods study of Oregon households.  Conducted over a several week period, Phase III tracked wasted food and wasted food behaviors in 299 households, recruited from five communities, using:
 
  • Waste sorts – PSU conducted waste sorts of the trash and (where applicable) curbside compost discarded by participating households.  Of the 299 recruited households, 230 had trash sorted and 58 had curbside compost collected.  These waste sorts allowed for an evaluation of the accuracy of the kitchen diary methodology, by allowing researchers to compare food actually discarded with food reported to be discarded in the diaries.
  • Kitchen diaries – Households were asked to track their food waste using a diary over a seven-day period.  The diary entries captured information about amounts of food wasted, how the food was discarded (e.g., trash, compost, drain), and reasons why food was wasted.  Participants received kitchen scales to facilitate waste measurement.  Of the 299 recruited, 182 completed the seven-day diary.
  • Pre- and post-diary surveys – Participants also were asked to complete pre-diary and post-diary surveys.  The pre-diary survey replicated the statewide phone survey conducted in Phase II.  The post-diary survey repeated some of the pre-diary questions to also for comparisons of behaviors and beliefs after the kitchen diary exercise.  Of the 299 households recruited for the study, 216 completed the pre-survey and 184 completed the post-survey.
 
Of the 299 households recruited for the study, 164 completed all four activities.
 

Residential Sector Waste Sort, Diary and Survey Study

 
For more information about this project, contact ElaineBlatt