Addressing Food Waste at University College Dublin, Ireland (2023 Sep)

At a glance

  • Two students undertook this as their final year project for the BSc in Human Nutrition at UCD and two students were working as work placement interns with the clinical nutrition and dietetics team at the School of Public Health, Physiotherapy & Sports Science.


Food waste is a global issue which carries many environmental and economic implications. An estimated 25-33%, or 1.3 billion tonnes, of food is wasted globally (1). The UN SDG of halving food waste by 2030 requires large scale action. Action in Ireland is guided by European directives to monitor and reduce food waste in line with the UN SDG goals (2).

Universities are settings with large populations and diverse expertise that could address food waste in meaningful and innovate ways. The student and staff population at UCD is over 30,000 with over 4000 beds provided for student residences on-campus. There are several large restaurants, numerous cafes and delis, coffee docks, 2 grocery shops, and other small vendors across the campus. Novel food vans park up once per week and during events or festivals. There are 4 main providers of catering to events and conferences across the campus. In short, UCD is akin to a large, bustling town with a food system to match.

UCD Estate services already has several supporting policies and programmes in place for sustainability. (3) UCD seeks the attainment of a sustainable, healthy and living campus and as such endeavours to manage the campus in a way that considers energy and water usage, waste management, sustainable commuting and biodiversity in all of its activities where relevant.

For students, there are opportunities to explore different aspects of the university food environment for the purpose of learning about food systems, waste, and what it all means for sustainability. To obtain a snapshot of the university campus, students focused on:

  • Food waste practices within a large university restaurant setting
  • Food waste knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours among students in residence on campus
  • Food waste within one staff building – the waste was collected, the students explored different methods of composting, and organised a living soil and composting workshop open to staff and students in collaboration with the community garden at the School of Veterinary Medicine.

Lessons Learnt:

  • A pilot exploratory project helped to build diverse relationships across campus including with restaurant management, Green Campus, the community garden, food waste and sustainability researchers and initiate conversations about this topic.
  • Small projects can attract interested staff and students and support the sustainability of actions with willing volunteers (e.g. continuing composting).
  • Accessing students to complete a survey was challenging and on-campus residence initiatives to engage students will require additional time and creativity.
  • The most wasted food group in a large university restaurant was starches, followed by vegetables. Plate waste, rather than kitchen waste, were the focus of the study, therefore server and consumer level engagement around portions sizes and waste awareness may be the appropriate focus for intervention.
  • The team in nutrition and dietetics at UCD collaborate with Airfield Farm Estate, where they demonstrate opportunities for full composting of food waste on-site, creating valuable compost and fertiliser for their garden and food growing.
  • The study is being developed further (in 2023/2024) to engage more with students’ knowledge and attitudes and repeat the restaurant methods to obtain a full academic year snapshot.

What Else? Other Relevant Examples

Food for Thought
Educators and Students seem the ideal role models for reducing food waste.
What systems need to be in place to avoid waste?
What supports do universities need to reduce food waste?

Contact Information
Sarah Browne,


1 – International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste Reduction 29 September

2 – Irish National Food Waste Prevention Roadmap 2023-2025 From Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications Published on 30 November 2022, Last updated on 30 January 2023 )

3 – Summary of UCD Sustainability Activities via Estates

Red-Listed Seafood (2023 Aug)

At a Glance

  • Madalyn Higgins, RD, the Dietitian and Sustainability Manager at Acadia Dining Services (provided by Chartwell’s Canada) worked with the students in NUTR 4913 Sustainable Food Systems and Dietary Patterns to address this target, providing them with a meaningful experiential learning opportunity. The students were all studying to become nutrition or health professionals, at least half of them intended on a career in dietetics.
The efforts of the students focused on three areas:
  • Understanding and communicating key messages about sustainable seafood.  Students put together a comprehensive review of existing research surrounding the topic and created communications tools to be displayed in the dining hall to inform staff and students about the negative effects of Red-Listed seafood and what steps they can take to minimize these effects.
  • Identifying Red-Listed seafood on the menu. Students investigated seafood sources to determine if they are on the Red List. This meant speaking with food system actors such as distributors and fisheries and comparing information to Ocean Wise resources.
  • Exploring strategies for more sustainable menu alternatives. Students proposed potential replacements using comparable items and looked for distributors.
  • The students presented their work to the dining hall’s Chef, Dietitian and Sustainability Manager, Director of Operations and Marketing Manager.
  • These efforts aimed to promote environmentally responsible dining practices at Acadia University while raising awareness about the importance of sustainable seafood sourcing.


Buying seafood that is Red-Listed has been recognized worldwide as a significant problem, as it is linked to major concerns for our fisheries and the health of the planet such as low fish stock numbers, destabilization of the ecosystem-wide food chain, and Irresponsible fishing practices that contribute to the destruction of our oceans.

With the growing population and growing appetite for fish and seafood in developed nations, billions of people around the world rely on fish and seafood as an essential source of protein and a means of income. Researchers have gathered that this seafood should not be made commercially available and alternative options need to be considered.

Organizations such as Seafood Watch, categorize red-listed seafood through different ranking systems tailored for various types of fishing such as fisheries and aquaculture, and score them based on their sustainability criteria.

The sum of the scores allow the seafood to fall into Green (good choice), Yellow (good alternative), or Red (avoid) categories. Other organizations such as Ocean-Wise and Aquaculture Stewardship Council also assess sustainability based on Seafood Watch’s sustainability scoring system  and convert the scores from three-fold to a binary system of Green and Red. Learn more…

Lessons Learnt:

  • Through research, students gathered that the problem is that there is a lot of complexity and lack of transparency surrounding the global seafood supply chain and what seafood is sustainable to eat.
  • There is a need to improve transparency regarding sustainable seafood and ability to access this information. The group learned about the importance of understanding these tools to identify relevant information about sustainable seafood options.
  • It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure sustainable seafood consumption. Policies should be put in place to regulate how seafood is being labeled sustainable.
  • While not easy, it is possible to identify unsustainable seafood sources and replace them with more sustainable sources.
  • Sustainably sourced seafood, such as recirculating aquaculture is not perfect but can create seafood options. These options can be much more expensive, and we rely on food and nutrition professionals to get creative in the kitchen to use them more sparingly.
  • The seafood that the students helped remove included the red-listed atlantic salmon and white shrimp that was being served in the Acadia dining hall.  Students gathered sustainable options to be presented as recommendations to replace these red-listed menu items. The better choices included the Ocean Wise-approved farmed Whiteleg shrimp and the Ocean Wise-approved farmed Giant Tiger shrimp. 

What Else? Other Relevant Examples

  • Recirculating aquaculture is Ocean Wise approved by fisheries worldwide and is often used for Atlantic salmon farming. Learn more…
  • Through the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, you can search ASC-certified seafood using a simple drop-down search. Learn more…
  • Organizations such as the Marine Conservation Society create resources to help educate students about ocean sustainability. Learn more…
  • Nourish Canada has developed a Sustainable Menu Guide that can guide menus for organizations such as University campuses. The menu guide simplifies efforts o create sustainable menus that reduce environmental impact while offering healthy, affordable, acceptable, and fair food to clients.  While not specific to sustainable seafood, it is more broadly helpful with practical examples.

Food for Thought
How do we ensure that we have aquatic resources for the future, especially with the growing demand?
What kind of tools are effective or needed to empower and educate consumers to make sustainable choices?
What supports do food service providers need to serve sustainable seafood choices?

Contact Information
Madalyn Higgins,

Thank you to Naomi Kereliuk for facilitating this case study!

Food Sustainability and Nutrition in Violence Prevention (Jamaica)

At a Glance

  • This case study was brought forward by Patricia Thompson, M.Sc. Nutrition, Executive Director of the Jamaican Island Nutrition Network (JINN).
  • Thompson explains the intervention that was implemented into six elementary schools in Jamaica that impacted the transition of school food to create a positive engagement tool in areas that were high in gang violence for children of school age.
  • Lessons Learnt: Opportunities and accessibility to healthy, local and supportive food programs can create a positive impact outside of school and can carry on to secondary education.


The Jamaican Island Nutrition Network is a charity that ensures rights for children to have nutritious food and diets. Their main mission is to “enhance the nutrition environment in Jamaica with special focus on students, student athletes, and youth in schools and related populations by collaborating with strategic partners and coordinating their efforts to enhance student performance and health” (JINN). JINN also advocates for sustainable nutrition programs in schools at multiple levels ranging from civil to community. They help build self-reliance through the use of local resources and skills and supports both environmental conservation and sustainability. In 2019, the Jamaican Island Nutrition Network annual conference had a day dedicated to Nutrition and Violence. There were problems identified through researchers, as well as a participant from the “Violence Prevention Coalition”, regarding the lack of nutrition and feeding education in programs and throughout school.

Pepsi fridge replaced with fresh fruit and water to replace sodas.


In 2020, The Ministry of National Security (MNS) had begun its second summer program through social intervention and community engagement that was implemented into six elementary school in Jamaica. “It was known that the likelihood of being recruited into local gangs which operate within the space is high at this age” (Thompson, 2020). This program was implemented in hopes to increase the positive impact and engagement in students and help their transition to secondary school become smoother while avoiding gang violence. This program contained elements of nutrition, music, sports, and technology. The nutrition program consisted of donations from the distributor sector including packaged food and drinks. The Ministry of National Security called upon the Jamaican Island Nutrition Network (JINN) to help review and provide modifications to the current nutrition program that was implemented by the MNS. When reviewing the menu, JINN followed certain criteria to ensure the affordability of the program due to the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Some of which included:

  • Keeping both the menus and food at a low cost…
  • Receiving produce from local farmers within the community…
  • Weighing and measuring students in order to determine their nutritional status…

The overall menu changes that were implemented by JINN were to include local produce from farmers, accept food donations and use these for take home meals and incorporate staple foods that include vegetables for vegetarians that are separate from animal products (see image below). In addition to menu change, JINN supported the suggested policy that was put forward by the Health Coalition of the Caribbean (HCC) to tax sweetened drinks in order to help curb childhood obesity, with the proviso that this tax money can help improve sustainable school nutrition. For example, paying cooks and nutrition professionals to help incorporate more nutritional options into programs such as the Wellness Program in schools. JINN believes that “the children would benefit from better nutrition thereby affecting not only their health status, but academic performance and violence disposition”. Luckily, there are now five ministries of government that have been impacted and will begin to increase opportunities for nutrition professionals in government.

Food for Thought
Are schools within your community sourcing fresh produce from local farmers or farmers markets? If not, why?
What impact can sourcing food through local farms have on both social and environmental sustainability?
What role do nutrition professionals have in ensuring adequate nutrition for school children in school and at home?

Contact Information
R.Nutr. PATRICIA THOMPSON M.Sc. Nutrition PGDip Mgt Studies (UWI)

Executive Director, Jamaica Island Nutrition Network (JINN)
Consultant Nutritionist/Health Promotion Consultant, Jamaica
Credentialed School Nutrition Specialist (SNS)
USA Certified Master Sports Nutritionist, Sports Dietetics (USA)
Phone: 876-977-4561; 876-322-3142

Responding to Crisis in South African Township: Community innovation for nutritious food in the time of COVID-19

At a Glance

  • This case study is drawn from a Blog Post created by Jo Hunter Adams, a research associate in the School of Public Health & African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, and Jane Battersby, an associate Professor at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, and was posted on the Nutrition Connect’s website during the global pandemic.
  • Adams and Battersby explain how emerging innovation within a community to help find a solution during a crisis can result in “building back better food systems and nutrition” by local people for local people.
  • Lessons Learnt: community kitchens can be sustainable both long and short-term and create resilience when including local farmers and growers and can be used as a sustainable safety net during times of crisis.


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, “at least 1 in 5 households were impact bay inadequate food supply and 1 in 3 children were stunted”. With the pandemic having a direct impact on food supply, whether due to lack of transportation or increase need from families, these numbers were bound to increase as the crisis continued. In Masiphumelele, Cape Town, South Africa, food security is prevalent and on the rise. In 2019, a survey was conducted in Masiphumelele and showed that 80-90% of residents had experienced food insecurity as well as 40% of residents had experienced hunger. Unfortunately, high rates of food insecurity can result in the increase of non-communicable disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure and vulnerability to child stunting.

Innovation and Solution in Response to COVID_19 Pandemic in Masiphumelele

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, it impacted the food supply and quality for many places around the world, including Masiphumelele. With many businesses, schools, and establishments shut down and advising everyone to stay at home, the need for more food in the home had increased and so did the rates of food insecurity. In response to the pandemic, the community came together, and with help from private donors, three approaches were put forth to help supply households with access to nutritious meals:

  • Vouchers
  • Food parcels
  • Community kitchens

Even with support from NGOs, both the vouchers and food parcels were only sustainable for short term use, especially for existing retailers. However, the establishment of small, decentralized kitchens have proven to be a more long-term sustainable safety net for the pandemic and are able to provide support and nutritious meals for households within the community.

Food for Thought
Are there any community kitchens in your community that can benefit from using local growers and farmers, volunteers, and support from local NGOs?
Why are food vouchers and parcels not sustainable?
In what ways do community kitchens contribute more sustainably to food systems?
A sustainable food system does not rely on emergency food aid (e.g., vouchers and food parcels) as a long term strategy. Explore the Learning Module: What are Sustainable Food Systems and Diets.

Contact Information
Nutrition Connect
Phone:+41 22 749 18 50 Email:
Twitter: @NutritionConnect
Address: Geneva, Switzerland, Rue Varembé 7, CH-1202 Geneva, Switzerland

SFS Education in Nutrition & Dietetics degrees: Global Case Studies (2023.07)

At a Glance

  • We are an international group of collaborating dietetic educator who share our stories about integrating sustainable food systems into nutrition and dietetic curriculum.
  • Dietetic educators are being called to prepare future dietitians and nutritionists to contribute to SFS transformation.
  • Dietetic educators integrating Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) education into the curriculum have shared examples.
  • An online platform for sharing examples serves as a series of mini case studies


In preparation for a workshop at the World Public Health Nutrition Congress 2020, subsequently postponed due to COVID-19, an international group of collaborating dietetic educator shared their stories about integrating sustainable food systems into nutrition and dietetic curriculum. In lieu of a face-to-face workshop at the Congress, facilitators have created the online platform.

This content was put together to showcase effective mechanisms and innovative approaches through international case studies which aim to improve food system competency among students and describe how this may translate into improved outcomes.

In the link you will see that each workshop facilitator has a profile, inclusive of an explanation (video or otherwise) of their showcased teaching and learning activity as described above.

Food for Thought

  • If you are an educator training future nutrition and dietetic professionals, are you already including sustainable food systems content in the courses that you teach? — If yes, how and what? If not, why not?
  • Do any of the examples included provoke new ideas for you? — Could they be adapted to your setting?
  • Is/should this topic integrated into the core content of your program, or is/should this an elective/optional topic

Contact Information
We welcome you to join us!
Please contact (in Australia) if you would like to be added to the platform or if you have questions.
If you have questions for any of the educators, their contact is included in the web platform.
Please contact them directly.