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Less Waste, Even Less Cost: The benefits of pre-ordering meals in school
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.

It will be the next generation who implement and sustain many of these changes. 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.
The head of geography at Bedales School in Hampshire, Paul Turner, compiled a variety of resources to better equip teachers to explain climate change to young minds.

Leeds DEC have devised a ‘Climate Curriculum’ that breaks down climate change topics per key stage of learning.

However, school food waste is still prevalent.

Over one school year, both primary and secondary schools combined waste a total of 80,382 tonnes of food - that is the weight of around 16,000 elephants.

3 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

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.

4 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

Having meals cooked to order can reduce many of the issues highlighted above.

An ordering system will inform the kitchen of exactly how many meals they need 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 up what is left.

Some online meal ordering systems do not only allow parents to book, but also see menu choices in advance and schools have the option to upload pictures of 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.

Tops tips on how to reduce school food waste

The government announced in January this year £1.15 million of funding to tackle food waste - pledging to reduce them by 20% in 2025.

The government have 4 top tips on how school food and catering services can cut down on food waste:

1. Get free online tools and guidance from WRAP by signing-up to tackle waste and share good practice at (launched spring 2012).

2. 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.

3. Segregate your waste into categories which can be recycled. Mixed waste tends to go to landfill.

4. Waste products such as cooking oil, cardboard and aluminum 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 for more information.

Many councils now offer free food waste collection, like Hackney and Merton, so it is worth checking with your local council if it something they can offer your school.

With a good catering system in place, schools can have more control over the waste from school meals. For more information on the benefits of school meals, check out our recent blog post here.


To find out how the Dinner Money module can help your school, call us today on 02380 016563 or book your free demo.

To learn more about our Online Meal Ordering functionality click here.
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