A new study published by Magdalena Kubal-Czerwinska, the HES-GEO Food Waste team research leader, with her colleagues, focuses on the impact of religious values on reducing food waste.

The food service sector is responsible for 26 % of global food waste (UNEP, 2021). Stepping in and reducing this contribution on the sides of the supply (our kitchen) and demand (our plate) is needed.

Current research tries to identify factors like emotions, personal and social norms, religious values and habits that could trigger the change to stop wasting food.

Such factors could not only directly influence the consumer but also to be a moderator of such a change. This means that if you see someone not wasting food, you are likely to reflect on this while eating out, shopping or cooking.

Do religious values matter?

The study published by Magdalena Kubal-Czerwinska with her colleagues focuses on understanding the role of religious values in reducing food waste when dining out.

To do that, Poland was chosen as a relevant country for this exploration because:

Religious values matter, but

The researchers confirm that religious values matter, but indirectly. This means that the more personal the encounter, such as with family and friends, the stronger the influence of social norms against wasting food. On the other hand, encounters with less personal people, such as fellow countrymen, have less impact.

To cut down on food waste, strategies should focus on appealing to customers’ emotions and reminding them that wasting food is unacceptable to those close to them.

Recommendations for practise

For practitioners:

  • Opportunities to design more effective campaigns for food waste reduction in the food service sector.
  • By referring to (grand)parents and close friends, such campaigns can be more effective when encouraging (younger) consumers to save food from going to waste when dining out.
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on compassion and the influence of relatives and friends.

For policymakers:

  • Need for the national government and local authorities in Poland and other countries with large populations of followers of religion to integrate the religious values of food into teaching curricula to encourage the reduction of food waste.
  • Especially at nursery/kindergarten and primary schools, as younger children are most likely to absorb these values, and will follow them when they grow up.

This article was brought to you in collaboration with Magdalena Kubal-Czerwinska.