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Formative Research for an Intervention to Reduce Plate Waste and Improve Produce Intake in Schools

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Objective: High plate waste in schools adds social, economic, and environmental burden and undermines child nutrition goals. In this study, we conducted formative research to examine potential for mindful-based approaches in reducing plate waste and improving fruit and vegetable intake. Methods: With a triangulation approach, research was conducted in 3 elementary schools using focus groups with students (N = 50), staff interviews (N = 15), and cafeteria observations (N = 9). Guided by Social Cognitive Theory, qualitative findings were analyzed using Constant Comparative Method. Results: Salient personal, behavioral, and environmental factors potentially contributing to student plate waste and eating behaviors were identified. School meal structure and regulations, cafeteria atmosphere, food quality perceptions, and food preferences were potential contributors to plate waste. Students had limited knowledge of mindfulness and were interested in reducing waste, particularly when others are food-insecure. Emphasizing mindfulness and sustainability in nutrition education, collaborating with parents and student leaders, and building on existing waste reduction initiatives could be considered to reduce plate waste and improve eating behaviors. Conclusions: Findings highlighted opportunities to design a program combining mindfulness and sustainable food system education and cafeteria environment changes to reduce plate waste and improve FV intake and sustainability of school meals.
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Keywords: ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH; FORMATIVE RESEARCH; HEALTH EDUCATION; NUTRITION; PLATE WASTE; SCHOOL HEALTH

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2021

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  • Health Behavior and Policy Review is a rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly bi-monthly publication that seeks manuscripts on health behavior or policy topics that represent original research, including papers that examine the development, advocacy, implementation, or evaluation of policies around specific health issues. The Review especially welcomes papers that tie together health behavior and policy recommendations. Articles are available through subscription or can be ordered individually from the Health Behavior and Policy Review site.
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