Delicious! - Food waste prevention in school catering

Food waste accounts for up to half of a school's total waste in the UK (WRAP, 2011). Other surveys show that up to a quarter of the food served in schools ends up as waste (IFWC 2016; Eriksson 2017). According to IFWC estimates (2016), up to 17kg of food waste is disposed of per pupil per year.

In Austria, too, many schools have significant amounts of food waste when serving meals. Orientation surveys conducted for the first time by the Institute of Waste Management at BOKU in a Viennese school show that on the day of the survey an average of 40% of the food delivered was disposed of, with the amount of buffet leftovers being significantly higher than the amount of plate leftovers. This resulted in a total of 50 kg of food waste on just one school day - almost enough to feed all the pupils registered for the meal for another whole day.

Food waste in schools is a major issue for many reasons. Not only is the effort and associated environmental impact spent on growing, transporting, storing and preparing the food wasted, but the money spent on feeding the children is not used for its intended purpose. The children do not receive the intended nutrients and in connection with the issue of waste avoidance, the wrong or non-existent role model effect leads to fatal consequences in the future.

Within the framework of the VKS-funded project "Delicious!", comprehensive data on food waste in schools will be collected for the first time in Austria (focus on Vienna). The topic is to be comprehensively dealt with by involving all relevant actors (such as the regional parents' association, education directorate, municipal departments, headmasters, teachers, pupils, nutritionists, catering companies, etc.).

By means of quantitative surveys in the context of sorting analyses in the schools during food distribution, the amount but also the composition of food waste will be recorded. In addition, the main focus of the analyses is on the situational level (environmental analysis). Through observation and interviews, conclusions can be drawn about the reasons why food waste occurs.

Through the quantitative collection of data and the recording of the existing reasons by means of environmental analysis, solutions are to be found, which will subsequently be discussed, implemented and evaluated with the actors involved. Communicating the connections between food waste and current topics such as climate protection should ensure that schools deal with the problem in a sustainable way. By optimising internal and school processes, savings should lead to win-win situations for all involved.

Contact: DI Dr. Gudrun Obersteiner