Emerging economies, particularly China, are likely to play a critical role in determining global food waste. The paper investigates plate waste from a staple food consumption pattern perspective by surveying 9,192 Chinese university students at the on-campus canteens in 29 provinces of mainland China. A significant finding is that diet culture is closely related to food waste. Southerners who consume rice as a staple food are found to waste more food than Northerners who are wheat-based eaters on average. A robust test confirms the finding when matching the student's hometown and university location and setting the "Southerners studying in South China" as the reference group. Taking into account the possible self-selection problem, the robustness test based on the PSM model also confirms the association between staple food consumption patterns and food waste in Chinese university canteens. Comparative analyses based on the components of food consumption and the compositions of wastage further suggest that the differences in staple food consumption patterns determine the food wastage variations. This study provides empirical evidence that differences in consumption patterns bring about the disparity in food wastage within a country. All rights reserved, Elsevier.