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Waste Not Want Not: Public Policy on Household Food Waste

AAEA Members publish research in AJAE

Nearly one-third of all food within a household is wasted. Yet, despite ambitious programs in the US, EU and UN to reduce food waste by half by 2030, public efforts to reduce food waste with consumer-facing campaigns have met with limited success. After initial success in the United Kingdom's initiative to reduce household food waste, household food waste began rising again in 2012, and in response to a food waste reduction program in the Netherlands initiated in 2009, household food waste has remained largely unchanged. 

Stephen F. Hamilton from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Timothy James Richards from Arizona State University, co-authored a new article in AJAE, "Food Policy and Household Food Waste."

Hamilton says, “one reason that consumer-facing programs have had limited success in reducing food waste is that food waste depends both on food purchases and food utilization, and reducing household food utilization costs can cause households to buy more food. Much like having a bigger refrigerator makes utilizing food less costly but can lead to larger purchases of food, policies that facilitate household food utilization can lead to greater food waste if households respond by buying more food.”

He continues, “our findings suggest that different households will respond differently to policy designed to reduce food waste according to differences across households in the price elasticity of demand for food. The reason is that households with elastic food demand respond to lower food utilization costs by buying more food. Our results also inform on how social policies such as food support programs can impact food waste, and clarify the need for future research to understand whether households targeted by food policies have elastic food demand.”

The article “Food Policy and Household Food Waste” is now available online for a limited time. If you are interested in setting up an interview with Stephen Hamilton, please contact Allison Scheetz in the AAEA Business Office.

ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices. To learn more, visit

Contact: Allison Scheetz
Senior Communications Manager
(414) 918-3190