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Youth Study Food Waste With PHI's Center for Wellness and Nutrition

June 05, 2018 | PHI's Center for Wellness and Nutrition

The University of California (UC), CalFresh Nutrition Education Program in Imperial County has been implementing a Youth-Led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project for the past two years at Meadows Union K-8 School. The program targets middle school aged youth in the After-School setting.

This year, the cohort of sixth through eighth graders who call themselves Helping Hands, Active Knights (HHAK) decided to examine how much fruits and vegetables students are throwing away from their school lunch by conducting a food waste study. Camila Gutierrez, a 12 year old HHAK Researcher, explains that… “We decided to do a food waste study because it is a serious problem in not only our school, but also around the world.”

In April, PHI's Center for Wellness and Nutrition's (CWN) Metria Munyan partnered with UC Calfresh’s MaryAnn Mills to conduct a Food Waste Study Training to help the youth researchers prepare. Youth designed everything in the study from the flow of traffic, the roles for youth and adults, and an interview process for select students.

With support from Paul Tabarez, the adult ally on this project, the HHAK team successfully administered the study at Meadows Union, which included vigorously working through 2 lunch periods, processing 363 lunch trays, interviewing 25 students, and tracking over 85 pounds of wasted food. The students are still analyzing the data they gathered, but we look forward to hearing what innovative solutions they recommend for improving school lunch and eliminating food waste.

This is one of the youth programs being administered by UC Calfresh programs statewide as they shift from simply providing youth with nutrition education to engaging them in developing solutions for healthier communities. CWN, in partnership with the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, provides technical assistance, documentation, and training throughout the state to build young people and empower them as community leaders.

For more information about youth engagement, please contact Metria Munyan at Metria.Munyan@wellness.phi.org.


The Public Health Institute Center for Wellness and Nutrition (CWN) is a national leader in developing campaigns, programs, and partnerships to reduce obesity and promote equity in the most vulnerable communities across the country. We have established relationships with local, state and national organizations, and through education, engagement, environmental changes and policies we work to make health accessible for all. We can help you set, achieve, and evaluate your goals and develop effective and innovative programs for your clients. Learn more about the Center and how we can support your work.