Three essays on consumption and food waste
Population growth and increasing life standards contributed to a high demand for food worldwide. Simultaneously, there is growing evidence that more food is being lost or wasted through the different stages of the supply chain. In the developed world, including the United States, consumer waste often constitutes more than 60% of all food losses.This dissertation explores the problem of consumer waste from three different perspectives. In the first essay, a game-theoretic model of a direct interaction between consumers and a retailer with monopoly power is developed to capture the effects of dynamic pricing on the transfer of perishable inventory to consumers. The retailer chooses its optimal price taking into account both retailer and consumer preservation. As long as the retailer’s inventory is well preserved, its price will be low inducing consumers to stockpile and waste more food. Consumers may also waste more if their own preservation level is relatively high. The second essay focuses on governmental policies aimed at reducing consumer waste, such as a tax and a subsidy. Using microeconomic analysis, closed-form solutions for a social-optimal food waste tax and subsidy are derived. The government may impose this tax to increase the cost of waste disposal for households while using tax revenue to sponsor food preservation efforts. It is shown that the tax might not be an effective instrument if the responsiveness of food waste to this tax is low. Finally, the third essay investigates the impact of a nutrition education program on school-cafeteria waste. This program was implemented to promote the health benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables among elementary school children. Comparing food waste data in the treatment and control groups, we found no statistically significant evidence of either increased selection or consumption of fruits and vegetables in the treatment group.