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Public Health Nutr. 2015 Jun;18(9):1565-77. doi: 10.1017/S1368980014002948. Epub 2014 Dec 29.

'It's just so much waste.' A qualitative investigation of food waste in a universal free School Breakfast Program.

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Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy,Tufts University,150 Harrison Avenue,Boston,MA 02111,USA.



To understand stakeholders' perspectives on food waste in a universal free School Breakfast Program implementing a Breakfast in the Classroom model.


Semi-structured focus groups and interviews were conducted with school district stakeholders. Inductive methods were used to code resulting transcripts, from which themes were identified. The analysis provides a thematic analysis of stakeholders' perspectives on food waste in the School Breakfast Program.


Ten elementary schools in a large urban school district implementing a universal free Breakfast in the Classroom model of the US national School Breakfast Program.


Elementary-school students (n 85), parents (n 86), teachers (n 44), cafeteria managers (n 10) and school principals (n 10).


Stakeholders perceived food waste as a problem and expressed concern regarding the amount of food wasted. Explanations reported for food waste included food-related (palatability and accessibility), child-related (taste preferences and satiation) and programme-related (duration, food service policies, and coordination) factors. Milk and fruit were perceived as foods particularly susceptible to waste. Several food waste mitigation strategies were identified by participants: saving food for later, actively encouraging children's consumption, assisting children with foods during mealtime, increasing staff support, serving smaller portion sizes, and composting and donating uneaten food.


Stakeholders recognized food waste as a problem, reported myriad contributing factors, and have considered and employed multiple and diverse mitigation strategies. Changes to the menu and/or implementation logistics, as well as efforts to use leftover food productively, may be possible strategies of reducing waste and improving the School Breakfast Program's economic, environmental and nutritional impact.


Breakfast in the Classroom; Elementary school; Food waste; National School Breakfast Program; Students

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