Environmental awareness has increased exponentially. Over the last decade, a combination of activists, scientists, government officials and even celebrities have been working hard to put humans’ environmental impact at the forefront of our minds.
School-aged children are already having a profound impact on the way we view our world. At just 15 years old, Greta Thunberg created the ‘school strike for climate’. One year later she gave a speech to the leaders of the United Nations to highlight how much more needs to be done.
- 69% of teachers think there should be more teaching about climate change in UK schools.
- 68% of pupils want to learn more about the environment and climate change.
Schools across the country have been implementing new ways to get children involved in the fight against climate change.
However, school food waste is still prevalent
Shockingly, over one school year, primary and secondary schools combined waste a total of 80,382 tonnes of food. That is equivalent to the weight of around 16,000 elephants!
Three major impacts of food wastage
There are many impacts of food waste, but the three main ones our schools see are:
- Environmental – the energy from growing, storing and preparing the food is wasted
- Nutritional – wasted food is wasted nutrients
- Financial – money spent on buying and preparing the food is wasted, and further cost is incurred for waste disposal
Sadly, up to 78% of food waste in both primary and secondary schools is avoidable. The largest proportion of this avoidable food waste is vegetables.
In primary schools, 72% of their total waste comes from the kitchen and canteen.
Four reasons food in schools is wasted
The main reasons food is being wasted in schools can be split into the following four categories:
- Food is prepared but not served. This is the likely outcome of a school without an ordering system as the kitchen is required to prepare for an unknown number of children with unknown preferences.
- Food is served but not eaten. Fixed food combinations (e.g. pudding is always included) and portion sizes can result in pupils having more on their plate than they can manage. If the school operate a first come, first serve kitchen, the pupils at the end of the queue may not get their preference and eat less as a result.
- Situational reasons food is served but not eaten. If the canteen is too overcrowded or mealtimes are rushed, this can be an unpleasant environment for pupils to eat.
- Behavioural reasons food is served but not eaten. Pupils may reject food if it is unfamiliar.
The impact of catering software on food waste
- Cooking meals to order can reduce many of the issues highlighted above.
- An ordering system will inform the kitchen of exactly how many meals to prepare, limiting the need for over-catering practices and reducing the amount of unserved food.
- Allowing children to choose their meals in advance by using an app like SCOPAY, or in the morning with a system like Classroom Edition, pupils can ensure they get their preferred choice of meal and are not back of queue picking what is left.
Our system allows parents to book, see the menu choices in advance as schools have the option to upload pictures of the meals. This reduces the risk of children rejecting food based on unfamiliarity.
Preparing one meal per student reduces food wastage and cost
The atmosphere of the canteen is also impacted, with the guarantee of meal choice and less queueing, it is a more pleasant place for pupils to enjoy their lunch.
Tips to reduce school food waste
The government announced funding of £1.15 million to tackle food waste – pledging to reduce it by 20% in 2025.
How school food and catering services can cut down on food waste:
- Regularly review food waste arising from unused or spoilt kitchen stock or uneaten food and take steps to reduce this, e.g. better menu planning to avoid over ordering and avoiding the use of unpopular options.
- Segregate your waste into categories which can be recycled. Mixed waste tends to go to landfill.
- Waste products such as cooking oil, cardboard and aluminium all have a commercial value. You should be able to find collectors who will take this from you for minimal or no cost.
The government also suggested taking the pupils to a farm or growing vegetables on-site, so they can have a more positive experience with food. Visit www.visitmyfarm.org for more information.
Many councils now offer free food waste collection. This is worth checking with your local council if it’s something they can offer your school.
With a good catering system in place, schools can have more control over the waste from school meals.