Preschool Healthy Food Policy Did Not Increase Percent of Food Wasted: Evidence from the Carolinas
This research evaluates the effects of a South Carolina (SC) policy, which changed the nutrition standards for foods served in early care and education (ECE) settings, on wasted food. A two-group pre-test/post-test evaluation was performed in ECE centers serving children age 3–5 from households with lower incomes in SC (n = 102 children from 34 centers, intervention) and North Carolina (NC; n = 99 children from 30 centers, comparison). Direct observation was performed to assess the quantity and kcal of food served and quantity and percent of food discarded, by food group and nutrient, enabling assessment of waste in the absence of intervention. Mixed-effects linear models were fit to estimate, by state, differences in change from baseline to post-implementation at the center level. Covariates were selected a priori, including center enrollment, racial composition, director educational attainment, years in operation, for-profit status, and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) participation. Waste of food was high across states and time points. The policy was not associated with a change in percent of food discarded in SC compared to NC in adjusted analyses.