The data that you collected can tell you the percentage of food being wasted before and after you implemented a change in your cafeteria. It will also tell you how many students are selecting food items. If food waste has decreased and students are selecting the healthful foods that are being promoted, you know that your efforts have been successful! Sharing your successes is key to gaining support from the school community as well as from parents and district wide stakeholders! The best way to communicate your data is by presenting it in an easy to understand way. This worksheet is designed to help you make your recorded data into simple, straightforward bar graphs that you can feature in school newsletters, at board meetings, or on the school website!
The first step is to organize your data by entering it into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. For help using the program, ask a high school business teacher or, better yet, a high school student!
Now you are ready to generate a graph that summarizes the findings. You can create one graph that shows the percentage of food being wasted. You will also want to share the percentage of students that select each item. For example if you are particularly concerned with vegetable intake, it is relevant to communicate the percentage of students selecting vegetables as well as the percentage of those vegetables that students throw out.
Percent Food Wasted
Percent of Students Selecting Each Item
In a new Excel “workbook” create another chart that shows how many students are selecting each food item. To find this data return to your initial spreadsheet and count the students who selected each item and divide that number by the total number of students whose trays you measured. Remember that empty cells indicate that the student did not select that food item. Consider this example again:
According to this chart, 5 trays were measured and of those 5 trays 4 included green beans.
Using Your Data and Graphs
Bar graphs created in Excel can be copied and pasted into other documents so that you can share your graphs easily! With your easy to read bar graphs you are ready to show off your results!
Beyond how much food is wasted vs consumed, stakeholders may be interested in knowing about the nutritional value of the foods that students eat. Having the weight of each food item recorded in your spreadsheet makes it easy to look up nutritional values. Simply convert ounces to grams (if not already recorded in grams) and use the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference to find detailed nutrition information about the food item that you are analyzing. If you know how many calories, for example, are in one full serving of green beans and you know that 80% of green beans are being eaten you can easily calculate how many calories from green beans kids are eating by using this formula: calories in one serving X .8 = average calories eaten. This data can also be easily shared with a bar graph by following the instructions above.