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Kathryn Bender - University of Delaware. Newark, DE, US

Kathryn Bender

Assistant Professor of Economics | University of Delaware


Research focuses on the economic pedagogy as well as the economics of food waste, experimental economics and consumer behavior.







Kathryn Bender Interview on Food Waste Research




Kathryn Bender received her B.S. in Economics from Centre College and her Ph.D. and M.S. in Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics from The Ohio State University. After two years at a liberal arts college, she arrived at the University of Delaware, where she is an assistant professor of economics in the Lerner College of Business and Economics. Her area of research focuses on the economics of food waste, and she has become a go-to expert on the topic for media outlets nationwide. Bender also recently launched an economics workshop focused on Taylor Swift called Data Enchanted, with a goal of fostering interest in economics among the current generation of students.

Industry Expertise (3)

Consumer Goods


Environmental Services

Areas of Expertise (7)

Food Marketing and Policy

Economic Pedagogy

Taylor Swift

Data Visualization

Data Analysis


Food Waste

Media Appearances (6)

Yes, you can study Swiftonomics thanks to a new University of Delaware workshop

Inquirer  online


Taught by longtime Swiftie and assistant economics professor Kathryn Bender, the not-for-credit workshop uses Swift’s Spotify streaming data and a sizable number of Easter eggs to teach the basics of data visualization. Those who complete the workshop will receive a data analytics certificate, said Bender.

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Swiftonomics: University of Delaware brings Taylor Swift economics course to campus

Delaware Online  online


Delaware's largest university hopes to spur "the future generation's interest in economics" with a voluntary course centering on the singer's economic impact. Her father is a Blue Hen, after all. Kathryn Bender, an assistant professor of economics, is leading the Swift-themed data visualization workshop series for undergraduate students called "Data Enchanted: Transforming Numbers Into Knowledge."

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Tackling climate change and alleviating hunger: States recycle and donate food headed to landfills

AP News  online


Kathryn Bender, a University of Delaware assistant professor of economics, said donation programs are helpful, but she worries they might shift the burden from businesses to nonprofits, which could struggle to distribute all the food.

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Too Good to Go is new food app that aims to curb food waste, offer lower costs for some

CBS News Miami  online


"As food prices increased we would expect that people would tighten up on how they're managing their food and waste less," said Kathryn Bender, a professor of economics at the University of Delaware.

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Community fridges don’t just fight hunger. They’re also a climate solution.

Grist  online


One concern that researchers have with projects that repurpose food is that they require additional resources, like transportation and electricity. “Rescuing [food] still comes at a cost,” said Kathryn Bender, a professor and food waste researcher at the University of Delaware.

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'Swiftonomics' and how the University of Delaware is using Taylor Swift to teach economics

Delaware Public Media  radio


Many economists have started referring to Taylor Swift’s economic influence as 'Swiftonomics' and estimate she generates billions for the U.S. At the University of Delaware, assistant professor of economics Kathryn Bender has introduced a series of workshops examining Swift’s economic impact while making the study of economics and data visualization more accessible. Delaware Public Media’s Kyle McKinnon talks with Bender this week about the workshops and the power of Swiftonomics.

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Articles (5)

Household food waste trending upwards in the United States: Insights from a National Tracking Survey

Journal of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association

2023 Three successive administrations have supported the United States' 2015 goal to reduce food waste. Households waste more food than other supply chain segments, however, few data sources are available to track US households' progress toward this goal. We provide insights from the first four waves of a novel national survey designed to track such waste. We find a 280% year‐over‐year increase in self‐reported waste between early 2021 and early 2022, which militates against national goal achievement. We find households wasted more food during weeks they dined out and that sample households dined out significantly more in 2022 than in 2021.

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Consumer behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic: An analysis of food purchasing and management behaviors in US households through the lens of food system resilience

Socio-Economic Planning Sciences

2022 The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated considerable interest in the resilience of the U.S. food system. Less attention has been paid to the resiliency characteristics of the final link in the food system – individual households. We use national survey data from July 2020 to understand the food acquisition, preparation, and management strategies that households implemented in response to the pandemic. We find a substantial increase in the amount of food prepared and consumed at home which scales with respondents’ time availability, perceived risks of dining out, and pandemic-induced income disruption.

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Adapting, refining and expanding a validated questionnaire to measure food waste in US households


2021 The Household Food Waste Questionnaire (van Herpen et al. 2019a) was developed and validated as an effective instrument to identify statistically significant differences between households and to distinguish trends in household food waste over time. The original instrument was validated using consumers sampled from several European countries. We conduct a pilot study with U.S. consumers using the revised questionnaire. We find that a sample of 150 online panelists provided sufficient statistical power to replicate standard findings from the literature that smaller households and older respondents generate less food waste, but not enough statistical power to identify a statistically significant week-to-week reduction in reported food waste among households who received a food waste message rather than a control message.

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The impact of COVID‐19 on consumer food waste

Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy

2021 Perhaps no phenomenon has so quickly and radically altered household production parameters and daily food patterns as the onset of the COVID‐19 pandemic. We contemplate the immediate and longer‐term implications of this public health crisis on the amount of food wasted by consumers. We conclude that the pandemic and its aftermath may improve household skills and management practices in a manner that reduces day‐to‐day household food waste. However, pandemic‐driven disruptions may induce larger intermittent purges of food due to changes in work patterns and food service and food retailing availability. We recommend several steps to reduce waste as the pandemic unfolds.

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Some issues in the ethics of food waste

Physiology & Behavior

2020 It is estimated that nearly one-third of food produced on the planet never meets its intended purpose of human nourishment. This represents a substantial stock of resources available for reallocation. Any potential reallocation of resources raises ethical issues – who should sacrifice (change current behaviors), who should benefit, and what methods are appropriate to induce the behavioral change required to invoke the reallocation? In this brief article, we will discuss several topics in the food waste literature that, in our opinion, raise ethical issues that warrant further thought and consideration. These include the emphasis on food donation as a means to reduce food waste, the emergence of markets for food with cosmetic imperfection (i.e., “ugly food”), the appropriateness of guilt appeals to motivate reductions in wasted food, and the ethical tensions in choosing dates on food labels.

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Education (3)

The Ohio State University: PhD, Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics 2019

The Ohio State University: MS, Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics 2016

Centre College: BS, Economics 2011