Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences

Degree Level



Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences


Wood, Lisa S.

Committee Member/Reader

Savin, Mary

Committee Member/Second Reader

Popp, Jennie

Committee Member/Third Reader

Whitehead, Isabel


The original purpose of this study was to investigate differences in carbon footprints of school lunches by comparing a school in Arkansas, USA, and a school in Belize. Due to complications imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the purpose was revised to gathering preliminary data about the school lunch program at a school in Northwest Arkansas; data were to be used to estimate CO2-equivalent emissions for cafeteria energy use, meal ingredients from the two most popular meals served, and food transportation at the last point in the supply chain (food service delivery to school). This study highlights the intersection of food systems and climate change. As the effects of climate change worsen, it is important to consider ways to reduce emissions in a variety of sectors, including the food sector, to reduce future effects of anthropogenic climate change and reduce risks related to food security. The study investigated the kg CO2-eq emissions of two popular meals served based on interviews conducted with cafeteria staff in a selected school in Northwest Arkansas. The methodology section outlines suggested data collection for when researchers can visit Belize to complete the study and describes methods for estimating CO2-eq values for different aspects of meal preparation and the supply chain. The absence of specific information for certain foods or distributors made it difficult to draw conclusions in some cases. Estimates from the study show the overall CO2-eq for the “beefy nachos” meal to be much greater than the chicken tender meal, likely due to the larger carbon footprints of beef and cheese production compared to chicken and potatoes. Energy use estimates to prepare each meal were small relative to the estimated overall carbon footprint of each meal. Most of the carbon footprint related to the production of the food itself. To perform more detailed calculations in the future, it is recommended that data collection be conducted on site for both schools, and for researchers to use programs such as SimaPro or OpenLCA to find more specific data values to perform calculations. Ultimately, this will allow for more accurate comparisons of lunches at both schools that will be beneficial in finding ways to reduce emissions of lunches where possible.


carbon footprint, emissions, food systems, climate change