Finns throw away roughly 25 kilograms of edible food per person per year. Rotting food waste generates greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and the increase in challenging weather conditions. The world population growth and need for more food is also increasing resource depletion rate of food production. The situation will soon become unsustainable.
“It is clear that we need to make our food behaviour more sustainable – eating more plant and plant-based foods and reducing the amount of food waste. Such a behavioural change will take time and require new cooking knowledge and skills,” says Professor of Home Economics Anna-Liisa Elorinne, PhD (Clin Nutr).
Food waste is a widely researched topic, as opposed to the related behavioural drivers. The current research project addresses the effectiveness of knowledge learned in school on households’ food waste behaviour.
“Participating in this multidisciplinary research project that supports sustainable development are the university’s representatives from Home Economics, Educational Science and the Business School, as well as the Natural Resources Institute Finland.
Knowledge, guidance and attitude changes
Research shows that people mentally compartmentalise climate change as an ecological disaster. Large in scale and difficult to comprehend, people are not able to specify how it affects their everyday life.
“To change our everyday food behaviour, we need more knowledge and positive guidance. The changes also cannot be rushed.”
The project has also shown that the more accessible waste recycling systems are, the more inclined people are to use them and make recycling part of their everyday chores.
“In addition to knowledge, people’s behaviour is affected by their attitudes. It would be great if reducing food waste would generally be considered as something normal and positive.
Food education and teaching new ways of doing things is naturally easier with children and young people. That is why, in addition to home economics classes at school, food education is also part of teaching environmental sciences, biology, geography and social studies.
“This ensures that children get a broad sense and understanding of food having many other properties besides flavour and price. Food literacy refers to understanding the food system, knowing what sustainable food is, and having the knowledge and skills to make good food choices and prepare healthy foods.