The role of family and religion in food waste prevention

Do you happen to be careful and refrain from wasting food? If so, you probably got it from home. Why? Because, most likely, you see the value in reducing food waste, a value that your parents instilled in you. And it was reinforced by the religious values that were present at home while you were growing up.

Why do that matters?

Food loss and waste are environmental, economic, and societal challenges with various implications. As reported by FAO, since 2011, the global amount of food waste has evolved to around 1.3 billion tonnes. And it is unlike the trajectory will change, despite the overall recognition of the problem.

Drivers AKA “Spaghetti soup”

The main driver of the food waste is consumer behaviour based on multiple factors, described as a “spaghetti soup.” At home, for example, it is the lifestyle, family routines, and knowledge of food processing habits. Eating out is ruled by other factors, such as personal taste preferences, the types of eating out occasions, or the structure and size of dining parties.

Much research has analysed the correlation between psychological factors and behavioural intentions to avoid food waste. Scholars have, for example, demonstrated a strong relationship between personal norms, attitudes, behavioural intention, and actual behaviour toward food waste avoidance. Although many of these factors have been well researched, some remain insufficiently studied or were ignored entirely. Like in the case role of religion.

Religion plays its part

The recently published research titled Religious values and family upbringing as antecedents of food waste avoidance explored this. Specifically, it was the role of religion in the light of growing secularisation and the role of the family in shaping behaviour towards avoiding food waste. Here is worth noting that a team leader of food waste mitigation practices Magdalena Kubal-Czerwinska, took part in it.

The cultural and geographical context was important. The study focused on Polish consumers as the society in Poland is characterised by strong Christian religious traditions and family bonds.

For the details, we invite you to read the full article.

Firstly, because Christian religion is the most dominant in seven out of ten countries that are world leaders in food waste (UNEP, 2021). Secondly, Polish society is still perceived as Catholic and religious. The belief in the sacred nature of food is in Poland passed down from generation to generation, and food is viewed as ‘God’s gift’. 

Religious values and family upbringing are a strong foundation for personal norms of avoiding food waste.

The study found that religion plays an essential role in family education. Family values in countries with prevailing religious traditions could be marked as more inclined to a food waste mitigation practice. Religion and family thus shape personal social and environmental motives to avoid food waste.

As the moral imperative to avoid food waste is passed down from parents to their children and reinforced by religious values, it allows to draw a concrete policy intervention. For example, to include religious leaders in food waste prevention campaigns targeting parents.


profile picture of Magdalena Kubal-Czerwińska

This post was written by Magdalena Kubal-Czerwińska, the leader of the Food waste team.