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Abstract

Although food waste is increasingly recognized as an environmental and food security problem, there remains uncertainty over its primary contributors. Analyses of food waste often fail to treat the problem as an economic phenomenon, where consumers’ utility maximizing decisions result in discarded food. This paper presents a conceptual model of household food waste, showing that decisions to discard food depend on food prices and wage and non-wage income. The results of two empirical studies are presented, where we study consumers’ decisions to discard food in different scenarios that vary safety, price, and opportunity costs. We find that food waste is a function of consumers’ demographic characteristics, and that decisions to discard food vary with economic incentives.

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