This paper has two main aims: (1) to describe the design, implementation, and testing of a protocol to assess longitudinal changes in F&V plate waste conducted as part of a quasi-experimental study, (2) to provide baseline descriptive data on school demographics and study participants. This paper describes the protocol development and implementation, and presents baseline data of a longitudinal fruit and vegetable (F&V) plate waste study. The protocol was developed to determine the preliminary impact of Brighter Bites, a 16-week school-based nutrition intervention, on F&V wasted and nutrients wasted from school lunches. We measured plate waste using a quasi-experimental design (n = 2 intervention schools receiving Brighter Bites, n=1 comparison school; n = 115 4th and 5th grade children). We measured plate waste for five days at each of four time points over the 2017–2018 academic year (baseline prior to intervention, three additional time points). Data collectors measured lunch F&V waste using digital scales and recorded weights on a data collection app. This study was conducted in three central Texas public elementary schools serving predominantly low-income families (>89% of children on free/reduced lunch program). On average, at baseline, 59.1% of all F&V were wasted and children tried <1 F&V at meals. Foods most wasted were legumes and foods least wasted were par-fried baked potatoes. Final retention rate across the four time points was 75.70%. Measurement inter-rater reliability was 100% (r = 0.99). Our study presents a protocol for detailed, individual-level, longitudinal plate waste assessment in elementary schools.
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