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3 Drivers of Food Waste at the Consumer Level and Implications for Intervention Design T he reasons that consumers waste food are diverse and complex, but understanding them is critical to identifying effective ways to reduce food waste. As in many behavioral domains, consumersâ actions in this area are driven by cultural, personal, political, geographic, biological, and economic factors that influence conscious and unconscious decisions. Researchers refer to the influences from all of these factors as the âdriversâ of individual consumer behavior (see Chapter 1). Clearly, these factors are not always within the individualâs control. This report uses âdriversâ as a general term that encompasses causal factors; factors that may be statisti- cally correlated; and âintervening factors,â sometimes termed âmediatorsâ or âmoderatorsâ that help explain causal pathways. In addition, drivers can include both the presence of factors that tend to promote a given behavior, such as, in the case of food waste, large portion sizes offered at restaurants, and the absence of factors that discourage a behavior, such as lack of knowledge of the negative consequences of an action. Researchers from diverse disciplines, including psychology, economics, public health, and sociology, have made contributions to understanding the drivers of consumer behaviors, and identified numerous links between par- ticular influences and actions, as discussed in Chapter 1. To make action- able recommendations for food waste reduction strategies as directed by the study charge (Box 1-1 in Chapter 1), the committee first sought evidence about the drivers of consumer behavior from research in six related fields: energy conservation, recycling, water conservation, waste prevention, diet change, and weight management. Conclusions from this work allowed us 63
64 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE to note lessons learned in other domains that may be applicable to future food waste research and intervention design. The committee then turned to identifying drivers specific to food waste both at and away from home. We identified 160 specific drivers supported by the literature, which we then clustered into 11 categoriesâtypes of driv- ers that may realistically be modified. This process allowed us to examine the characteristics of those drivers best supported by the literature, in terms of both the mechanism by which they operate (motivation, opportunity, and/or ability; see Chapter 1 and Appendix E) and the contexts in which they operate (at or away from home; related to food acquisition, consump- tion, or disposal). The chapter closes with the committeeâs conclusions about drivers particularly likely to be useful in the design of interventions to reduce consumer food waste. UNDERSTANDING DRIVERS OF BEHAVIOR IN OTHER DOMAINS The committee conducted literature searches across the six related do- mains, focusing on systematic reviews and meta-analyses. These searches, conducted in ProQuest Research Library, PubMed, and Scopus, yielded a total of 406 reviews; the search process and method for analyzing the results are described in Appendix B. Some selected original studies with relevant insights were also reviewed. This section presents the committeeâs insights about the drivers of consumer behavior at or away from home with potential relevance for wasted food and a few general observations. Motivation, Opportunity, and Ability Work Together to Drive Behavior Chapter 1 details reasons why the motivation-opportunity-ability (MOA) framework provides a valuable approach for analyzing drivers of food waste behavior and considering interventions to change that behavior. This first section highlights empirical evidence that supports the validity of this framework. In the context of water conservation, for example, house- holds were found to be more likely to adopt desired behaviors when they felt capable, were motivated, and had the opportunity to participate in the targeted behavior (Addo et al., 2018; Geiger et al., 2019). A meta-analysis of the causal mechanisms of water conservation behavior showed that op- portunity was a moderate predictor of behavior, followed by motivation and then ability; the three together explained 37 percent of the variance in household behavior (Addo et al., 2018). This evidence reinforces the idea that combinations of drivers that address motivation, opportunity, and
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 65 ability should be considered jointly in both understanding behavior and designing potential interventions. Sociodemographic Variables Are Often Insufficient or Poor Predictors of Behavior Sociodemographic factors may alter consumersâ motivation, oppor- tunity, or ability to behave in certain ways, and thus might appear to be important drivers to consider in the food waste and other domains. How- ever, significant cultural variation at every socioeconomic level results in a wide range of routines, norms, and beliefs related to food. Further, some demographic characteristics are relatively fixed, while others can change. Often, therefore, these factors can obscure more than they clarify, and meaningful inferences will be based on examination of specific relationships among factors. Research findings on the extent to which sociodemographic factors pre- dict proenvironmental behavior are mixed. While some studies show cor- relation between specific behaviors and sociodemographic variables (e.g., Addo et al., 2018; Cox et al., 2010; Whitmarsh et al., 2018), others show different results, such as that sociodemographic variables have no signifi- cant influence on proenvironmental behavior (Li et al., 2019); that only income predicts recycling behavior (Miafodzyeva and Brandt, 2013); or that while well-educated people are generally more committed to resource conservation, they actually consume more (Koop et al., 2019). Although there are trends in how sociodemographic variables may be associated with behaviors, many studies indicate that these variables con- tribute little to understanding of proenvironmental behavior and that psy- chological factors are more successful in predicting behavior and behavior change (Li et al., 2019). One meta-analysis suggests that, according to the studies examined, there was no need to tailor recycling interventions to dif- ferent groups, in particular to households, students, or employees, because similar factors appeared to underlie the behavior of all of these groups (Gei- ger et al., 2019). Other studies within the six domains have illustrated that as a behavior (e.g., recycling) becomes habit, sociodemographic variables may no longer predict or significantly influence behavior (Miafodzyeva and Brandt, 2013; Soderhorn, 2010). These nuanced findings suggest a need for careful attention to the strength of evidence about the roles of the different sociodemographic factors in the food waste literature, as well as consideration of whether any observed associations are causal or reflect the fact that demographics sometimes serve as partial proxies for other, more relevant factors. In the
66 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE food waste domain, the effect of sociodemographic factors has not been studied in depth. (A few inconclusive studies are mentioned in Chapter 2.) Some Motivational Factors Are More Effective Drivers of Behavior than Others It is tempting to think that simply having enough information about a given behavior or its impacts will change individualsâ choices. However, research in the six related domains shows that knowledge or information alone is insufficient as a predictor of peopleâs ability (i.e., knowledge for action) to change and maintain behavior (Abrahamse and Steg, 2013). By contrast, motivational factors, such as altered attitudes toward outcomes, values, agency, or perceived control, and social norms have been found to be more effective drivers of behavior (Li et al., 2019; Miafodzyeva and Brandt, 2013; Samdal et al., 2017). This is particularly true when con- sumers have baseline knowledge or can readily obtain it, with sufficient motivation. Further, not all motivational factors are egocentric: several meta- analyses illustrate that proenvironmental behavior is driven more by normative (and sometimes environmental) concerns than by individual costs and benefits (Geiger et al., 2019; Miafodzyeva and Brandt, 2013). Similarly, environmental attitudes and beliefs, concerns about the future, and an individualâs sense of responsibilityâall of which can shape motivationâ may be more important drivers of proenvironmental behavior relative to sociodemographic variables (Li et al., 2019). Norms play a particularly important role in behavior change. Moral norms (i.e., when people feel that doing something aligns with an abstract right or wrong); injunctive social norms (i.e., what one ought to do); and descriptive social norms (i.e., perceptions of what most people are doing) have increased in many societies and are strongly correlated with behavior (Miafodzyeva and Brandt, 2013; Whitmarsh et al., 2018). Moreover, activi- ties that are presented as useful, pleasant, important, and widely accepted are more likely to be adopted and sustained than those that are viewed as someone elseâs responsibility or inconvenient, or those that require a high bar of self-efficacy or locus of control (Cox et al., 2010; Miafodzyeva and Brandt, 2013). One caveat to this finding with relevance to food waste is that it may not always apply to prevention behaviors that are unseen (e.g., changing acquisition behaviors to purchase less in the first place). When an action is not visibleâas is frequently the case for those actions categorized as preventionâsocial norms are unlikely to develop (Cox et al., 2010). Thus, one cannot assume that social norms drive food waste in the same
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 67 wayâor should be managed in the same wayâas they might in other be- havioral contexts. Contextual Factors1 Influence, and May Override, Other Drivers A variety of evidence highlights the important influence of contextual factors and barriers on behavior in the six related domains. Several meta- analyses of household recycling interventions found that although research- ers seldom considered such contextual factors as availability of curbside or convenient recycling, a bin at home, or space to store recycling before pickup (Geiger et al., 2019; Varotto and Spagnolli, 2017), they were strong predictors of waste reduction and recycling behavior (Geiger et al., 2019; Whitmarsh et al., 2018). A review of the literature on water conservation behavior found that water pricing was the most important variable explain- ing differences in domestic consumption in 10 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (Koop et al., 2019). Other studies suggest that psychosocial factors, such as attitudes and norms, are insuf- ficient for overriding structural barriers to behavior (Karlin et al., 2015). Despite the evidence regarding the importance of context, different mo- tivations and barriers operate in different contexts, and peopleâs actions are therefore inconsistent across different times and places (Nash et al., 2017; Verplanken, 2018; Whitmarsh et al., 2018). Similarly, the effects of behav- ioral drivers may differ over time, both societally and individually, so driv- ers of food waste should not be considered static across time and contexts. Also, little is known about how drivers may differ at different phases in the behavior change process (Samdal et al., 2017). These findings illustrate that contextual factors vary and that those that change opportunity (e.g., marketing tactics, technology, the built environment, policies) at the food acquisition, consumption, storage, and disposal stages are similarly likely to affect food waste-related behaviors, independent of motivation or ability. Based on the number of and wide variation in contextual factors included among the summative drivers identified by the committee (see below), their importance and interactions with other drivers will need to be assessed for each population and setting. 1 Contextual factors are characteristics unique to a particular group,Â community,Â society, or individual. These factors include, but are not limited to,Â personal, social, cultural, economic, and political factorsÂ that exist in differing ways and have varying impacts across population groups.
68 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE Drivers Related to Habits2 Play a Key Role in the Way Behaviors Are Initiated, Sustained, or Disrupted Habits are automatic once created. Although research on habits has implications for food waste, it is important to note that habits (e.g., avoid- ing the frozen foods areas of a retail store or remaining unaware of wasted food) vary in terms of their costs (e.g., in effort and time) and benefits (e.g., financial, health-related), so each specific habit needs to be examined individually. Nevertheless, there are valuable lessons with respect to habits for efforts to reduce food waste. Multiple drivers may influence both the breaking of old habits and the establishment and maintenance of new ones, and it is therefore important to consider those drivers both separately and jointly. Drivers that operate through reflective mechanismsâthat is, conscious cognitive processesâ have received more research attention than have habits. However, there is evidence that the two have different effects; for example, established habits are not easily influenced by values and norms, and they predict and sustain behaviors because they are automatic (Cox et al., 2010; Miafodzyeva and Brandt, 2013; Whitmarsh et al., 2018) (see Chapter 1 for a discussion of reflective versus more automatic behaviors). Behavioral interventions aimed at altering habits have been less effective than interventions aimed at influ- encing single-action behaviors (e.g., buying an energy-efficient appliance) (Nisa et al., 2019). At the same time, interventions that have been success- ful in creating a new habit reveal that automatized behaviors are easier to sustain (Nisa et al., 2019). There is reason to believe that drivers that prompt people to adopt new behaviors are different from those that help people maintain a behavior as part of a new habit, although more research is needed in this area (Mia- fodzyeva and Brandt, 2013; Samdal et al., 2017). A systematic review of behavioral change theories found that people need at least one sustained motivator to maintain a behavior change, and will often initiate a change when motivation is high and effort is low (Kwasnicka et al., 2016). This study also suggests that when motivation decreases and effort or costs increase, people will often need some way to self-monitor in order to sus- tain the change; this can be challenging when stress, fatigue, or financial pressures exert countervailing influences. Once a new behavior becomes a habit, external factors (e.g., changes in motivation or effort) are less likely to affect that behavior, and stable contexts can make behavior maintenance easier (Kwasnicka et al., 2016). These findings suggest the importance of 2 Habits are contextâbehavior associations in memory that develop as people repeatedly experience rewards for a given action in a given context. Habitual behavior is cued directly by context and does not require supporting goals and conscious intentions (Mazar and Wood, 2018).
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 69 carrying out further work to identify drivers related to the adoption and maintenance of new habits (Nisa et al., 2019) and of considering the role of habits in food waste behaviors and their interaction with the motivation, opportunity, and ability elements of the MOA framework. UNDERSTANDING CONSUMERSâ FOOD WASTE BEHAVIOR With the above findings from the six related domains in mind, the com- mittee reviewed the literature specific to drivers of food waste, both in the household and away from home (see Appendix B for details on the search approach) to identify drivers and specific causal mechanisms that result in food waste and prioritize them by level of impact. The research focused on food waste is limited and emerging, and as discussed at the close of this chapter, the existing evidence did not support the development of so precise a list. However, the available literature does offer some important insights to guide further exploration of drivers of consumersâ food waste behavior from a systems perspective, as well as an approach to guide the design of interventions to reduce food waste at the consumer level and the additional research needed to build on these ideas. How Consumers Come to Waste Food: Modifiable Drivers The committee reviewed the literature on food waste at and away from home, including in Kâ12 school settings, colleges/universities, hospitals, hotels, and restaurants. Three systematic reviews of household food waste were particularly helpful (Roodhuyzen et al., 2017; Schanes et al., 2018; Stangherlin and de Barcellos, 2018). We used peer-reviewed studies with original data only to identify drivers of food waste outside the home be- cause we could find no systematic review on that topic. These peer-reviewed studies focused largely on specific locations where food is discarded, such as schools and colleges, health care facilities, food service and restaurant venues, and cafeterias (e.g., Chen and Jai, 2018; Haas et al., 2014; Lorenz et al., 2017a,b). Through this review, we identified 160 drivers that research has suggested may be important contributors to consumer food waste. To make their utility for the design of food waste reduction interven- tions more apparent, we clustered the individual drivers into categories, or summative drivers. Our focus was on identifying clusters of drivers that (1) reflect the importance of motivation, ability, and opportunity; (2) play an important role in determining consumer food waste behavior; and (3) might translate to interventionsâthat is, would potentially be modifiable. This process resulted in the identification of 11 summative drivers that evidence indicates are promising targets for reducing food waste, listed in Box 3-1.
70 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE BOX 3-1 Summative Drivers of Consumer Food Waste Food waste is driven by A. consumersâ knowledge, skills, and tools; B. consumersâ capacity to assess risks associated with food waste; C. consumersâ goals with respect to food and nutrition; D. consumersâ recognition and monitoring of their food waste; E. consumersâ psychological distance from food production and disposal; F. heterogeneity of consumersâ food preferences and diets; G. the convenience or inconvenience of reducing food waste as part of daily activities; H. marketing practices and tactics that shape consumersâ food behaviors; I. psychosocial and identity-related norms related to food consumption and waste; J. factors in the built environment (including in household and retail environ- ments) and the food supply chain; and K. policies and regulations at all levels of government. Each of these 11 summative drivers represents a cluster of drivers synthesized from evidence across multiple studies covered in our search. Examples of individual drivers identified within each summative driver can be found in Tables 3-1 through 3-11, which are organized using the MOA framework described in Chapter 1. These examples are meant to depict the primary element (i.e., motivation, opportunity, or ability) by which the spe- cific driver works. These examples also show how the drivers relate to the key ways consumers interact with food: acquiring, consuming and storing, and disposing of it. Because the studies we examined relied on a variety of methods it was not possible to estimate effect sizes for each or to prioritize them, a point discussed at the close of the chapter. The drivers of food waste behavior interact with each other, and it is these more complex interrelationships that will result in an increase or decrease in food waste. For example, while meal planning may reduce food waste for some households, for others it might have the opposite effect, depending on resource availability, such as access to shopping opportunities created by the built environment (summative driver J) or food preferences (summative driver F). Thus, for example, people who can only make one large shopping trip in a distant location may, in planning, err on the side of buying too much, leading to later food waste. On the other hand, for a
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 71 consumer whose preferences simply include a large amount of perishable food, making a firm shopping plan may have little effect on that indi- vidualâs level of food waste. Because the interactions among the drivers are important, the distinctions among them can sometimes blur; nonetheless, identifying the categories of drivers is important for understanding the full range of drivers (and their mechanisms) influencing food waste behavior. As in the research from related fields, the food waste literature sug- gests that it is important to consider underlying contextual factors to gain an understanding of the influence of various drivers on consumersâ food waste behavior. Some evidence suggests that drivers influence the generation of wasted food differently, and to varying degrees, depending on whether consumers are at or away from home. The material qualities of the food itself also mediate how multiple drivers influence the generation of wasted food. For example, whether a food item is fresh or frozen can influence rela- tionships withâand thus the drivers of behaviors withâthat food because fresh and frozen foods require different skills for storage and preparation and have different shelf lives. A. Consumersâ Knowledge, Skills, and Tools If they are to reduce waste, consumers need knowledge of what to do; the requisite skills to do it; and tools that do not unintentionally prompt waste (e.g., ability and opportunity), such as trays in a buffet setting or a large casserole dish used in food preparation (Hebrok and Boks, 2017; Roodhuyzen et al., 2017; Schanes et al., 2018) (see examples for specific drivers in Table 3-1). Important knowledge and skills are commonly related to provisioning and preparing the appropriate amount of food (e.g., Secondi et al., 2015); gauging quality; maximizing shelf life (e.g., Farr-Wharton et al., 2014); cooking, including repurposing of leftovers (e.g., Graham-Rowe et al., 2014); and awareness of which parts of food are edible.3 Consumer tools can be physical objects, informational tools (e.g., recipes), or tech- nological tools (e.g., smartphone apps) that support planning, acquisition, storage, and preparation. Such tools may be transportable and expendable (e.g., storage containers, planning and monitoring tools, appropriately sized cookware or plates [Hebrok and Boks, 2017]). Note that because they may have strong effects on other aspects of the food supply, more durable tools are considered part of the built environment (e.g., refrigerator, cupboard storage) (see summative driver J below), and that tools that facilitate food waste monitoring are included in summative driver D. 3 Perceptions of which foods are edible are also relevant to food preferences, discussed together with knowledge and cultural norms below.
72 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE TABLE 3-1â Examples of Drivers Related to Knowledge, Skills, and Tools Stage Motivation Opportunity Ability Acquisition Recipes or other Size of plate, Knowledge about tools/information cookware, or other quantities or food types that encourage the item, prompting needed for preparation, purchase and full acquisition or including the amount of use of food items to preparation previously acquired food acquire or prepare that is usable Consumption/ Recipes, cooking Access to waste- Knowledge about using Storage shows, and other reducing consumption âscraps,â aging food, information sources modes (e.g., food leftovers, or edible that encourage limited sharing) components of food consumption of foods instead of disposing Access to storage tools of them, and ways to and methods to maximize shelf life maximize shelf life Disposal Access to trash cans and other bins for other means of waste management (e.g., composting) B. Consumersâ Capacity to Assess Risks Associated with Food Waste Peopleâs perceptions of food safety and quality, their sensitivity to guidance about food safety (e.g., Milne, 2012; Soma, 2017), and their knowledge about foodborne illnesses all influence food waste. In a national survey conducted in 2015, food safety and food quality were cited as the top two reasons for discarding food (Neff et al., 2015), although there is often a perceived tension between concerns related to reducing risk and those related to minimizing waste (Watson and Meah, 2013). People use knowledge, tools (e.g., date labels), and their senses to assess whether it is too risky to eat food (Hebrok and Boks, 2017). Assessment of risk affects both disposal and acquisition, and is influenced by such factors as recall of past experiences, norms, prior beliefs, date labels, and the smell and ap- pearance of the food (Hebrok and Boks, 2017). The process of judging whether food is safe to eat also relates to dietary restrictions (summative driver F), as some people are more risk averse or sensitive with respect to food relative to others. Perception of the risk or desirability of food is also related to psychosocial norms (summative driver I), as decisions related to risk management are also determined by emotions
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 73 and norms, such as the good provider identity4 (Brook Lyndhurst, 2011). Examples of specific drivers are in Table 3-2. C. Consumersâ Goals with Respect to Food and Nutrition Consumers must reckon with multiple motivations related to food con- sumption and waste, including eating more healthfully, reducing environ- mental impacts, and saving money. Some motivations reinforce each other, while others conflict. For example, the goals of saving money and reducing food waste would appear to be well aligned. However, getting the best value from food purchases through bulk purchasing or taking advantage of reduced prices may at times conflict with suggested food waste prevention techniques that encourage customers to buy only the perishable items they need. Other consumers might be motivated to lose weight, and therefore be more likely to leave edible food on the plate. Examples of specific drivers related to conflicting goals are in Table 3-3). Consumers resolve such conflicts in a variety of ways. For example, psy- chological licensing allows individuals to feel justified or even good about discarding food if they engage in such desirable behaviors as composting TABLE 3-2â Examples of Drivers Related to Capacity to Assess Risks Stage Motivation Opportunity Ability Acquisition Perceptions about Knowledge of foods/ which foods/food formats that will be formats (frozen, safest for the longest canned, fresh) will be time safest for the longest time Consumption/ Sensory cue Understanding of Storage interpretation and sensory cues sensitivity Understanding of the Interpretation of date meaning of date labels labels Previous negative experiences and concerns about food safety Disposal 4 Good provider identity refers to the need to feel like a âgoodâ provider and minimize any feelings of guilt experienced if individuals fail to meet personal or cultural expectations (e.g., Graham-Rowe et al., 2014).
74 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE (e.g., Qi and Roe, 2017), although this licensing is not inevitable. For ex- ample, if an action to reduce food waste activates a positive identity (e.g., makes one see oneself as a âsmart consumerâ or âfood stewardâ), that self-consistency may be more powerful than the licensing effect, making behavior to reduce food waste more likely (Oyserman, 2015). At the same time, negative emotions about wasting food (e.g., guilt) may paradoxically have a licensing effect, allowing consumers to feel they have compensated for the waste with negative emotions (see, e.g., Russell et al., 2017). Consumersâ motivations can also change through the consumption process. For instance, the motivation to eat healthfully can drive consumers to overpurchase produce that is later wasted when it begins to spoil or ends up not being a preferred item (e.g., Evans, 2011; Watson and Meah, 2013) perhaps because the desire for convenience or comfort comes to the fore after the food has been purchased. However, evidence suggests that health goals may align with waste prevention goals, and could be used to reinforce each other (Quested and Luzecka, 2014; von Massow et al., 2019). Out-of-home environments trigger different goals relative to in-home environments (e.g., hedonic eating,5 maximizing the matching of food to the consumersâ preference, impression management goals that lean toward âleaving some food on the plateâ in public). As a result, consumersâ waste reduction goals are often undermined in such contexts. This cluster of drivers is closely linked to psychosocial and identity factors (summative driver I), which include the good provider identity and the perception that âfresh,â or more perishable, food is healthier than other forms of food (Schanes et al., 2018) (e.g., see Chapter 2). D. Consumersâ Recognition and Monitoring of Their Food Waste People may be unaware of the amount of food they discard and the impact of that waste because they lack the capacity to track what is wasted, and many believe they waste less than other people do (Neff et al., 2015). Consumers who do not perceive their food waste as a problem are un- likely to practice specific behaviors to reduce it (Brook Lyndhurst, 2007; Hebrok and Boks, 2017; Roodhuyzen et al., 2017; Schanes et al., 2018). In addition, although food suppliers may have tools for monitoring or reporting waste amounts, they have little incentive to remind consumers that overacquisition may lead to waste. For example, immediate removal of unconsumed food from the dining area of an out-of-home venue may be a norm that encourages further waste. Moreover, waste estimation is not generally considered part of a positive, hedonic social experience, making 5 Hedonic eating is the act of eating for pleasure, rather than simply for nourishment, and may cause and perpetuate overconsumption.
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 75 TABLE 3-3â Examples of Drivers Related to Consumersâ Food and Nutrition Goals Stage Motivation Opportunity Ability Acquisition Desire to seek variety/ explore new options Beliefs about the relative effects of differently preserved foods on the ability to reach health goals (e.g., perishable fruits and vegetables âhealthierâ than other preparations) Consumption/ (Mis)match between Storage goals at acquisition (e.g., eating healthier) and goals at consumption (e.g., self-gifting or maximizing individual enjoyment from food) âHealthyâ choices in acquisition may license underconsumption of perishable foods Desire to lose weight, which leads to leaving food on oneâs plate Disposal Composting satisfies environmental and waste- reduction goals, licensing food waste âVirtueâ goals are satisfied by guilt about not eating, licensing disposal Discarding or âcleaning outâ seen as a healthy, clean, or efficient action
76 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE it unlikely that the data on waste collected in such venues will be shared with consumers. The invisibility of food waste may be compounded when other waste is made more visible. For example, consumers who are trying to gauge their food waste may be distracted by the waste generated by bulky packaging, which appears to be of greater magnitude than their wasted food. In this case, consumers may overlook the important role packaging can play in reducing food waste (see also Chapter 2 on myths). Although it is gener- ally agreed that people are unaware of their waste generation, it remains unclear whether this is purely a result of the invisibility of waste generation or is also a result of willful ignorance stemming from a desire to alleviate guilt or other negative emotions associated with wasting food. Examples of specific drivers are in Table 3-4. TABLE 3-4â Examples of Drivers Related to Individualsâ Recognition and Monitoring of Their Food Waste Stage Motivation Opportunity Ability Acquisition Lack of acquisition- proximal, salient reminders of the economic and opportunity costs of personal past food waste Belief that oneâs own food waste is less than that of others Consumption/ Immediate removal of Storage wasted food from the consumption area, which results in lack of feedback Disposal Removal/processing of Use of food by a third party, waste which results in lack of monitoring feedback tools Belief that another type of waste (e.g., packaging) is more important than food waste
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 77 E. Consumersâ Psychological Distance from Food Production and Disposal A lack of intellectual, social, and emotional linkage with foodâa lack of appreciation of the connections among its production, consumption, and disposalâcan result in a lack of awareness of or concern about the con- sequences of discarding food (e.g., Clapp, 2002; Soma, 2017) (see specific examples in Table 3-5). Moreover, urbanization and the changing struc- ture of the food supply chain have generally resulted in physical distance between where people live and sites of food production (e.g., farms) and disposal (e.g., landfills), further reinforcing this psychological disconnect (see Box 3-2). Consuming food away from home or shopping online, with no personal connection with those who prepared the food, also serves to distance consumers psychologically. BOX 3-2 Distancing Distancing is a conceptual framework commonly used in the field of con- sumption studies to explain the exploitation of resources and the resulting waste in the process of both production and consumption (Princen, 2002). This concep- tual framework has increasingly been adopted in food and food waste studies to explain the phenomenon of overconsumption, natural resource exploitation, and food waste (Clapp, 2002; Soma, 2017). Princen (2002) defines distancing as âthe separation of primary resource-extraction decisions from final consumption decisions. The greater the distancing on any several dimensions, the greater the likelihood ecological feedback will be severed and a resource overused.â Distancing is a broad umbrella term covering not only the process of geo- graphic distancing (spatial), but also mental distancing. One aspect of distancing is the disconnect between consumers and the primary source of their food. Dis- tancing also helps explain why the impacts of waste are often felt disproportion- ately by poor or marginalized communities that live close to waste disposal sites (Soma, 2017). Spatial distancing has been tied to the process of urbanization and the disconnect between urban consumers and the source of their food (Soma, 2017) and is one reason why urbanization has been identified as one of the driv- ers of food waste (Parfitt et al., 2010; Thyberg and Tonjes, 2016).
78 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE TABLE 3-5â Examples of Drivers Related to Consumersâ Psychological Distance from Food Production and Disposal Stage Motivation Opportunity Ability Acquisition âInexpensive foodâ is overacquired because of devaluation of labor and resources involved in the product life cycle Consumption/ Disconnect from Storage the preparer leads to devaluation of food and lower consumption Consequences of food waste do not affect many personally Disposal Poor awareness of the impacts of disposal F. Heterogeneity of Consumersâ Food Preferences and Diets Food preferences are driven by expectations and norms and by the de- sire for tasty or satisfying food. Preferences can lead to wasted foodâfor example, the discarding of portions of food, such as broccoli stalks or apple cores, that could be eaten (knowledge of what is edible is also closely linked to consumersâ knowledge and skills, discussed above). As noted previously, the classification of food as edible or inedible is shaped by both material and sociocultural factors that vary significantly among and within cultures (Gillick and Quested, 2018; Moreno et al., 2020; Papargyropoulou et al., 2014). Therefore, these attitudes offer a leverage point for interventions to motivate consumers to reduce food waste. Childrenâs limited palates and their often picky and unpredictable eat- ing habits are commonly cited as a reason for wasting food (Hebrok and Boks, 2017; Roodhuyzen et al., 2017; Schanes et al., 2018). As children develop their eating habits, they often need to try foodsâespecially veg- etables and other foods considered to be healthyâseveral times before liking them (Wardle et al., 2003). As a result, it may be socially optimal to allow some level of food waste as children develop their palates, especially if it results in healthier overall eating habits. Specific examples of drivers are listed in Table 3-6.
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 79 TABLE 3-6â Examples of Drivers Related to Heterogeneity of Consumersâ Food Preferences and Diets Stage Motivation Opportunity Ability Acquisition Desire to match heterogeneous preferences and diets Consumption/ Rejection of Specific foods needed Adoption of Storage previously purchased to account for dietary unfamiliar foods or food in light of restrictions diets changes in diet or preference Limited palates of children Dislike of consuming leftovers or certain food parts Desire to alter oneâs diet Disposal G. The Convenience or Inconvenience of Reducing Food Waste as Part of Daily Activities Contexts, priorities, and other characteristics of households and individualsâincluding the many demands associated with working and maintaining a householdâinfluence consumer choices with respect to food waste (see some examples of drivers in Table 3-7). These factors are affected in turn by dynamics within a household and communication among household members (e.g., Evans, 2011; Ganglbauer et al., 2013; Hebrok and HeidenstrÃ¸m, 2019). See Box 3-3 for more on how consumers make decisions and establish priorities. Several behavior-related theories and mechanisms have been proposed to explain these influences (Becker, 1965; Reid, 1934). A key insight of this work is that transforming market goods (e.g., packages of food) into home- produced goods (e.g., a meal) requires household membersâ time, which could otherwise be used to generate income through paid work, engage in other aspects of home production, or enjoy leisure activities. Further, household membersâ skill in household production can alter the trade-off and eventual decisions made with respect to allocating scarce time across market and home activities. The time available for food acquisition and preparation and the skills of household members therefore determines the motivation, opportunity, and ability to decrease food waste. The household production theory (Becker, 1965) has been used to model householdsâ food waste (Lusk and Ellison, 2017), guide systems-based
80 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE BOX 3-3 The Role of Emotions, Heuristics, and Biases in Consumer Decision Making Consumers rely on various cognitive shortcuts to make decisions and guide their behaviors, particularly when they are under pressure. Emotions also may be sources of nonrational input into decision making. Indeed, the more complex life becomes, the more consumers are likely to rely on emotions, heuristics (simple rules), and biases. For example, emotions and heuristics may guide a busy con- sumerâs perception as to whether a waste behavior is acceptable. Researchers have suggested that consumers can be profiled in terms of their feelings about waste, and that this profiling is more helpful for understanding waste behavior than are sociodemographic factors (Amato et al., 2019). Another powerful heuristic that can drive waste behavior is the idea that âbeautiful is goodâ (see Chapter 2). Numerous researchers have shown that consumers are less likely to purchase aesthetically unappealing produce relative to more aesthetically appealing produce (e.g., Aschemann-Witzel et al., 2018; Grewal et al., 2019), and that this effect is driven by a belief that unattractive products are of lower quality. Although such effects have been studied primarily in stores, it follows that individuals will rely on similar heuristics when deciding what to prepare at home, so that as goods age and decline in appearance, the likelihood that they will be wasted will increase. assessments of the economic impacts of wasted food (Muth et al., 2019), develop hypotheses about household changes in the amount of food wasted in response to changes in food prices and policies (Hamilton and Rich- ards, 2019), and devise tax schemes to reduce food waste (Katare et al., 2017). This framework has also supported efforts to estimate the amount of wasted food generated by a household based on detailed information about food purchases and demographic profiles (Landry and Smith, 2018; Yu and Jaenicke, 2018). H. Marketing Practices and Tactics that Shape Consumersâ Food Behaviors Consumer choice is significantly influenced by product branding, pric- ing, promotions, and other actions of retailers, restaurant operators, and other away-from-home food providers (examples of specific drivers are in Table 3-8). Marketing research has identified both online and in-store tactics that encourage overacquisition or suboptimal acquisition that may shape both at- and away-from-home behaviors. Marketing strategies that relate to food waste in particular include special offers, multiple-unit pric- ing, packaging, signage and displays, large portion sizes, bundled deals, and
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 81 TABLE 3-7â Examples of Drivers Related to the Convenience or Inconvenience of Reducing Food Waste as Part of Daily Activities Stage Motivation Opportunity Ability Acquisition Intermittent scarcity In-store/restaurant of resources (e.g., overload prompts money) and time satisficinga/use of leads to stockpiling heuristics Cognitive availability biases estimation of desire/need Consumption/ Substitution of food Meal plan Cognitive load Storage delivery for food abandonment due or stress leads to preparation because to variation in needs reliance on memory, of preference and circumstances and food is not consumed if it is not visible Disposal Reliance on affect Cost and ease of Time pressure leads heuristics to use of disposal and to disposal before determine freshness discard options consumption is or usability complete a Satisficing is a decision-making strategy that aims for a satisfactory or adequate result, rather than an optimal solution. cues to seek variety or shop in an exploratory manner. For example, low prices and deep discounts, while increasing consumersâ spending power, also can lead to stockpiling. Past research has shown that promotions with high quantity anchors (e.g., limit of 10 mangoes) cue consumers to purchase more of the promoted product than they otherwise might (Wansink et al., 1998). Retailers also often encourage consumers to seek variety, which can increase the likelihood that they will purchase nonpreferred foods that are more likely to go to waste (Ratner et al., 1999). Marketing tactics operate at both conscious and nonconscious levels (e.g., Kahneman, 2011). For example, buy one, get one free deals can lead consumers to purchaseâand wasteâmore, through a decision of which they are conscious. Other tactics, however, such as those that rely on high purchase anchors, may nudge consumers to buy more without their being aware of the influence on their decision. Likewise, larger carts and larger servings may lead to waste in both conscious and unconscious ways, as consumers may recognize the effects of such tactics on their propensity to buy food that will go uneaten but still be influenced. Similar tactics can be used to reduce waste if developed wisely. For example, marketing researchers have shown that granular, modular pack- aging, which allows consumers to eat smaller portions of a food without
82 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE leaving the entire quantity open to decay, will reduce the likelihood of waste. Because this tactic will also increase packaging and thus nonfood waste, however, this potential trade-off should be accounted for in evalu- ation of the interventionâs efficacy. Innovative processing technologies are continually being developed to meet various objectives (e.g., food safety), and they directly influence how consumers buy, prepare, and store their food. Many of these technologies have made an impact in increasing shelf life and thereby decreasing food waste (see Chapter 2). Other marketing factors, however, have not been widely used to shape waste during the consumption or disposal stage, so there is an opportunity to use marketing tactics that have both a conscious and unconscious influence on food waste. I. Psychosocial and Identity-Related Norms Relevant to Food Consumption and Waste Consumersâ motivation to reduce food waste is shaped by social norms, identity, and habit (examples of drivers related to norms are in Table 3-9). Factors that create identity and habit play an important role (e.g., Russell et al., 2017). These include formative life experiences, such as food scarcity, exposure to food production (e.g., through gardening or hunting), and local culture. Habits (actions performed automatically) also play a key role in many of the psychosocial and identity-related behaviors related to wasting food (Quested et al., 2011; Russell et al., 2017). Norms6âsocial expectations that define the appropriate behavior in a given situation (Schwartz, 1977)âappear to be particularly influential and have been the most extensively studied among this cluster of factors. When norms are activated, often outside of conscious awareness, they influ- ence information processing and decision making. Norm activation theory would suggest, for example, that a food acquisition situation may activate expectations about the desirability of larger shopping baskets, the benefits of bulk buying or abundance, or the acceptability of excess that influence the likelihood that individuals will acquire more than they need. Norms that can lead to waste include the good provider identity discussed earlier (e.g., Graham-Rowe et al., 2014), gender roles, consumerism (the idea that consumption of goods is positive), acceptance of wasting food as ânormal,â lack of acceptance of imperfect foods (e.g., Aschemann-Witzel et al., 2018), and preferences for fresh food. Stern (2000) argues that because the role of norms in food-related behavior is so substantial, it is critical not only to 6 âNormsâ in this context refers to moral norms (i.e., when people feel that doing something aligns with an abstract right or wrong), injunctive social norms (i.e., feelings about what one ought to do), and descriptive social norms (i.e., perceptions of what most people are doing) that are strongly correlated with behavior.
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 83 TABLE 3-8â Examples of Drivers Related to Marketing Practices and Tactics Stage Motivation Opportunity Ability Acquisition High promotional anchors (e.g., purchase limit 10, 10 for $10) and price promotions Novelty promotions promoting purchase of atypical/unfamiliar foods Messaging that emphasizes freshness, abundance, attractive presentation, minimal packaging, or organic products without regard to effects on waste Packaging and product offerings that result in acquiring more than desired Retail standards that promote only aesthetically appealing food Consumption/ No packaging Storage information provided related to preparation, storage, or usage Packaging not optimized for storage Disposal
84 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE discuss explicit attitudes and knowledge but also to address more implicit religious and moral norms. Some research indicates that individuals may face conflicting norms in the domain of food waste. For example, consumers may regard accumula- tion of goods as important to personal happiness and social status but also hold religious norms about the value of temperance (Petrescu-Mag et al., 2019) or find waste generally aversive (Arkes, 1996). Thus, norm activation theory suggest that waste may be reduced if planful shopping (Stefan et al., 2013) or an âethic of thriftâ (Waston and Meah, 2013) is made normative. Other research, however, suggests that norms may play a less important a role in food waste relative to such factors as price and convenience (Aschemann-Witzel et al., 2018). Although survey and experimental data are often focused on the deci- sions individuals make on their own, food acquisition and consumption decisions are often made in dyadic or group contexts, in which acquisition and consumption decisions are likely to be radically different from those made individually. For example, it has been suggested that individuals mak- ing decisions in groups or when others can observe are likely to differentiate themselves from others (e.g., not order an item another individual in the group has ordered) and to signal their own personality by seeking variety across food choices (Ariely and Levav, 2000; Ratner et al., 1999). Choosing items for reasons other than preference increases the likelihood of waste, although acquisition and consumption in groups may also serve to reduce waste in that when acquisition choices are observed by others, more com- munal consumers may be prompted to exert self-control, thus tempering their acquisition tendencies (Kurt et al., 2011). J. Factors in the Built Environment and the Food Supply Chain The built environment7 and the food supply chain play a key role in food waste through factors ranging from the household or community level (e.g., layout of home kitchen, refrigerator capacity, access to retail food sources) to the societal level (e.g., urbanization, characteristics of the food supply chain). For example, space constraints in the refrigerator or cupboards can make it difficult to organize items, thus making them more difficult to find and therefore less likely to be eaten (e.g., Schanes et al., 2018) (see additional examples in Table 3-10). Individuals often have 7 âBuilt environmentâ refers to theÂ human-made environment that provides the setting for human activity, ranging in scale from buildings to cities and beyond. It has been defined as âthe human-made space in which people live, work and recreate on a day-to-day basis (Roof and Oleru, 2008).
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 85 TABLE 3-9â Examples of Drivers Related to Psychosocial and Identity-Related Norms Stage Motivation Opportunity Ability Acquisition Social and gender norms related to abundance, special occasions, and the good provider identity Individual aversion to scarcity (i.e., acquiring too much as âinsuranceâ) Acquisition as a marker of status/consumerism Lack of acceptance of imperfect or suboptimal foods Consumption/ Norms related to the Storage good provider identity, abundance, and âgoodâ food Acceptance of imperfect or suboptimal foods Acceptance of food sharing Eating leftovers perceived by some as sacrifice or thrift Desire to impress eating companions (e.g., taking leftovers instead of leaving them) Prior experiences and local food cultures that influence habit creation Disposal Waste acceptance norms Guilt associated with waste
86 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE limited control over these factors, which shape the context for many kinds of food choices. Aspects of the built environment and the food supply chain can be ad- dressed through policies or technological improvements, but intervening in a complex system brings a risk of unintended consequences. System-wide responses may offset a positive original intent or expected impact, through rebound effects, for example. This point is illustrated in the context of en- ergy conservation by the introduction of technology that enables people to afford to drive more by using less fuel for each trip. Furthermore, if enough drivers experience this improved efficiency, the market price of fuel will likely decline, making additional trips even less expensive.8 In the context of food waste, interventions that successfully reduce the amount of wasted food could result in a smaller reduction in greenhouse gas emissions than expected (unintended consequence) because consumers who spend less on food may redirect their spending to other consumer goods that generate greenhouse gases (Druckman et al., 2011). Other un- intended consequences might include a rise in demand for electricity and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions if standard refrigerator temperatures are lowered. Thus, it is important that the entire food system be considered when factors in the built environment and the food supply chain are used to address food waste. K. Policies and Regulations at All Levels of Government Policies and goals related to food and waste, including date labeling, waste management systems and regulations, urban planning choices, agri- cultural subsidies, and other market-based instruments, have a key role to play in reducing food waste (some examples related to policy and regula- tions are listed in Table 3-11). Such elements of the food supply system as the cost of food and access to waste management services provide the context within which consumers and industry make choices. Some policies may directly target waste, while others are related to food quality, prices, or other factors and may indirectly influence the generation of wasted food. Broadly, policies have the potential to both drive and prevent the genera- tion of wasted food, as well as to address equity issues, or the possibility that groups of people may be disproportionately affected by changes (e.g., through regressive taxes). One policy recently recognized as important is date labeling on packages (e.g., Milne, 2012; Neff et al., 2019; Thompson 8 Since Jevons hypothesized that improved efficiency of coal engines might actually lead to an increase in coal use (Jevons, 1866), economists and engineers have hypothesized about and documented such offsetting responses, largely in the context of energy conservation initiatives (Binswanger, 2001; Chan and Gillingham, 2015; Greening et al., 2000; Khazzoom, 1980).
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 87 TABLE 3-10â Examples of Drivers Related to the Built Environment and the Food Supply Chain Stage Motivation Opportunity Ability Acquisition Urban planning factors, including access to transportation Access to, types of, and distance from retail outlets Available food supply, including access to garden or other food production Consumption/ Access to and layout Storage of home refrigerator and refrigerator or freezer design, including capacity Disposal Access to waste management products and services et al., 2018; Wilson et al., 2017). Another is waste management. These policies focus on what happens to food once it has been wasted by the con- sumer, but they can influence choices made along the entire supply chain. Commonly suggested waste management policies include imposing higher costs for landfill disposal (e.g., through a tipping fee), banning organic materials (including food waste) from landfills (e.g., Sandson and Broad Leib, 2019), requiring mandatory collection of compostable materials, and using pricing schemes that charge customers by the amount of waste gener- ated. Relatively little is known, however, about the direct impact of specific policies and regulations on the generation of wasted food (Schanes et al., 2018; Spang et al., 2019). SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS The committee examined a wide range of research on factors that in- fluence consumer behavior to identify those that may promote behaviors that limit food waste. These factors operate both at the individual, intra- personal, and interpersonal levels and at the broad community, state, and federal levels, and they interact with one another.
88 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE TABLE 3-11â Examples of Drivers Related to Policies and Regulations Stage Motivation Opportunity Ability Acquisition Agricultural Unregulated or subsidies, tariffs, and inconsistent date import restrictions labeling that influence price and availability Economic trends that influence purchasing and consumption patterns Requirements of retailers and food sellers to disclose information about food (e.g., calorie count) or provide food in a certain way Consumption/ Storage Disposal Economic trends Access to waste that influence waste management services production and restrictions on (e.g., organic bans) or requirements for (e.g., pay-as-you- throw) discard The MOA framework offers possibilities for analyzing this complex array of drivers of food waste behavior. As discussed in Chapter 1, this framework posits that behavioral changes occur as a result of the interplay of these three influences. In the context of consumer behavior related to wasting food, the MOA framework suggests that if consumers are to reduce food waste, they need to have the opportunity and ability to do so, and also be motivated to do so. At the same time, the framework highlights that many other factors that increase or decrease food wasteâparticularly nonconscious influences, habits, and contextual and psychosocial factorsâ may be at play when motivation, opportunity, or ability is low. The MOA framework is flexible enough to support comparison of findings across diverse literatures and thereby allow for consideration of these additional mediating factors.
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 89 Analysis of findings from the literature on drivers of consumer be- havior with the MOA framework in mind yielded the following overall observations. Drivers of food waste collectively influence consumer behavior regarding food acquisition, consumption and storage, and disposal. Although some drivers, such as marketing factors, shape primarily acquisition tenden- cies, others, such as the built environment, play strong roles in shaping acquisition, consumption, and disposal. Thus, drivers can emerge at dif- ferent stages of a consumerâs experience with food, and can play different roles depending on the stage in which they appear. The fact that drivers operate differently at different points in a process can make it difficult to make clear prescriptions about the likely effects of any single intervention strategy. However, it also highlights the potential benefits of addressing multiple points through a single driver or small number of driversâfor example, promoting efficient acquisition and maximizing of consumption while working to prevent the discarding of food in particular situations. As a systems analysis would suggest, all influences on the consumerâs experi- ence, including those that operate long before the actual decision to discard occurs, should be taken into account so that addressing a driver in one stage of the consumerâs experience with food will not create problems in another (e.g., altering acquisition in ways that promote more disposal). The largest proportion of drivers addressed by research relate to motiva- tion, but it is clear that drivers may also affect opportunity and ability. While the importance of motivation is clear, behavior cannot be discon- nected from opportunity and ability. Findings from the six related domains explored by the committee show that motivations are crucial drivers of behavior, but that they work in concert with opportunity and ability. The focus on opportunity and ability is particularly important in the context of automatic behaviors or habits, and the need to sustainânot just initi- ateâdesired behaviors. However, research in the food waste domain has not systematically compared drivers of automatic versus reflective behav- ior, or distinguished between drivers that support initiation as opposed to maintenance of behavior. The existing research does not cover all potential drivers of consumer behavior across settings. While this chapter has attempted to suggest pos- sible drivers of food waste behavior that may operate in away-from-home consumption, little empirical research has focused on these drivers explic- itly or systematically. Similarly, research in the six related domains has
90 NATIONAL STRATEGY TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE not adequately explored how drivers differ over time and across settings. Research in the other domains also indicates the importance of under- standing contextual factors, which may reveal a given driverâs operation or change the way any given driver works. Further, examining drivers in only one setting makes it more difficult to understand how a single driver may operate in others. For example, if it is possible to address drivers that prompt away-from-home food waste, consumers may internalize changes in practices and mindsets that affect the drivers existing at home. Additional research may broaden investigation into how drivers identified in this re- portâand others yet to be identifiedâoperate within different contexts, as well as across settings. Examination of underlying psychological and contextual drivers may pro- vide deeper understanding than can sociodemographic factors. Researchers in the six related domains have found that sociodemographic variables by themselves are often inadequate or poor predictors of environment-related behaviors, and the same appears to be true for food waste behaviors (see Chapter 2). Many drivers of food waste behavior, such as social norms, tool availability, and the built environment, may be correlated with sociode- mographic factors, but the former are most likely to explain the behavior. The research reviewed does not support prioritizing some drivers above others, but it does provide clues for identifying and using drivers that might be operating in a given situation. Because methods and measures used in this research vary so widely, it is difficult to compare effect sizes across stud- ies. Further, as few studies consider more than one driver simultaneously, the committee was unable to conduct a systems analysis that would account for dynamics and relationships. The 11 summative drivers identified in this chapter each affect at least one of the three elements of the MOA frame- workâmotivation, opportunity, and ability, as illustrated in Figure 3-1. With this in mind, the committee proposes that findings in this chapter can be used to identify and target drivers on which to focus interventions for reducing consumer-level food waste. To identify the relevant drivers, designers of interventions for a specific setting or community could con- duct formative research in that community to identify the cognitive process driving a food waste behavior (e.g., reflective or automatic) and which element(s) of the MOA framework are predominant. In a hypothetical case, individuals in a community may report both a high sense of psychological distance from a food source and a conscious willingness to discard food once it has become aesthetically imperfect. In this case, researchers may find that, for these individuals, psychological distance results in the lack of motivation to use the food and thus food waste. This behavior appears to be more reflective than automatic, and
DRIVERS OF FOOD WASTE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION 91 other drivers are therefore likely at play because reflective behaviors require activation of all three elements of the MOA framework. Thus, although it may be tempting to launch a messaging campaign focused solely on enhanc- ing motivation to reduce the discarding of food, the intervention designer should also search for drivers in the community that may be resulting in the high ability (e.g., low food literacy) and easy opportunity (e.g., lack of incentives to save food) to discard food. In this way, the most promising intervention for this context would not only change the psychological dis- tance from food through motivational cues, but also address drivers related to opportunity and ability that might be promoting food waste. On the other hand, consider a hypothetical case in which food waste is likely to be driven predominantly by automatic processes. In contrast with the above case, food waste here is occurring without the consumerâs awareness (so that researchers might find, for example, a large gap be- tween self-reported and objective measures of food waste); opportunity and ability, rather than motivation, are likely to be at play. For example, researchers might find large, convenient trash bins placed near refrigera- tors, indicating that individuals have high opportunity to discard the food; removing such sources of easy opportunity might prompt consumers to process their options more reflectively. Intervention designers might also look for evidence of a link between habits and a given event or cue. If that link could be disrupted, the interventionist might then engage consumers in more active behavioral change. As an example, researchers might find that some individuals dispose of food too soon because of a calendar cue to clean the refrigerator on the first of the month, the calendar itself trigger- ing the habit and the reward of a clean, spacious refrigerator. In this case, this old habit could be replaced with a new one. An intervention could be designed to interrupt the connection between the cue (the calendar) and the behavior (cleaning out the refrigerator)âfor example, by renaming the first of the month âLeftover Dayâ and providing rewards for using rather than discarding leftovers and creative recipes for using the food. In both of these examples, successful interventions are likely to result from a systematic approach to addressing multiple drivers of consumersâ food waste behavior. Further, it may not always be simple to determine whether waste is occurring only automatically or reflectively, and in any given community, both are likely to occur. Research that captures the driv- ers and the relative prevalence of such processes is critical to understanding how interventions should be bundled. CONCLUSION 3-1: Consumer behaviors regarding food acquisition, consumption, storage, and disposal are complex; depend on context; and are driven by multiple, interacting individual, sociocultural, and material factors within and outside the food system. These drivers of
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