Ukraine Food Crisis: Understanding the Impacts of War on the Global Supply Chain and Applying to Future Events; Big Portions, Big Profits: The Story of Oversized Portions and Food Waste in the American Restaurant Industry

Freedman, Alyssa, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Freedman, Alyssa, Engineering Systems and Environment, University of Virginia

The Russian invasion of Ukraine impacted global trade and economic networks a year after the COVID-19 pandemic did the same. Among the areas affected are the global food supply and prices, international export controls, energy supply, and the natural environment. The focus of this technical report is to understand the impact that a military invasion has on a major global food exporter and the countries that it supplies. Ramifications of the pandemic, extreme weather, and the energy crisis laid the groundwork for surging food prices, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated existing conditions. Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea Ports prevented millions of tons of Ukrainian grain from reaching global markets, and Russia’s ability to export grain was hindered by sanctions. The technical report will use the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a case study, compiling datasets on topics such as changes in global GDP, wheat and edible oil prices, oil and natural gas exports, and research about Ukraine’s crop production and food supply to understand how potential future military aggression could impact global supply chains.

My STS research paper explores the history of oversized portions and food waste in the American restaurant industry. Giving customers more than they can eat often yields a tremendous amount of food waste, which, in turn, contributes to climate change. Most previous research has focused on how oversized portions have contributed to increased rates of obesity and other food-related health issues. While my paper touches on the public health impacts of oversized portions, it is primarily focused on their relevance to food waste. Specifically, I explore the agricultural policies, cultural trends, and historical events that have given Americans such casual attitudes towards food waste, focusing on plate waste from oversized portions.
Serving oversized portions is common in the restaurant industry because larger portions typically yield larger profits. However, this wasn’t always the case. Nutrition studies have found that portion sizes began to increase in the 1970s, increased sharply in the 1980s, and have continued to increase ever since. Knowing that the trend toward increasing portion sizes began in the 1970s, I analyzed relevant cultural and historical events during this time period. I theorize that the “get big or get out” policies created by former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz in the 1970s, the resulting increase in processed foods and marketing strategies to encourage eating more, and the growth of the restaurant industry were major contributors to increasing portion size. At the conclusion of my paper, I discuss strategies for restaurants to mitigate their food waste and propose a study to determine which of these strategies are most effective.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Politics of food, Oversized portions, Restaurant industry, Food industry, Food waste
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: