Household time activities, food waste, and diet quality: the impact of non-marginal changes due to COVID-19

Benjamin Scharadin, Yang Yu, Edward C. Jaenicke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In early 2020, a novel coronavirus quickly spread across the globe. In response to the rapidly increasing number of confirmed U.S. cases, state and local governments suggested social distancing, issued stay-at-home orders, and restricted travel, fundamentally changing how individuals allocate time. Directly impacted time activities, such as work, eating food away from home, grocery shopping, and childcare significantly impact two food-related topics: household food waste and diet quality. In order to investigate these non-marginal time changes, we predict weekly time allocated to seven activities for households in the National Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey using information from the American Time Use Survey. Jointly estimating household production functions for food waste and diet quality, we find that time events that are related to fresh produce consumption, such as increased grocery store trips and time spent in FAH activities, are related to higher diet quality, but lower food waste. While time events that are associated with quick convenient meals, such as time spent in secondary childcare and work time, are also associated with lower food waste, these events decrease household diet quality. We then predict the level of household food waste and diet quality for three COVID-19 scenarios: one where the household head is likely able to work remotely, another where the household head is likely to lose their job, and a third, where the household head is likely to be considered an essential worker. Households without children that are likely able to work remotely are predicted to have lower levels of food waste and higher diet quality, while households without children in the other two COVID-19 scenarios are predicted to have only minor differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-428
Number of pages30
JournalReview of Economics of the Household
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


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