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.

Background:

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, sarah.browne1@ucd.ie

References:

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.

Background:

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, Madalyn.Higgins@compass-canada.com

Thank you to Naomi Kereliuk for facilitating this case study!

National School Lunch Program (Japan)

At a Glance

  • Over 10 million children in Japan receive delicious, nutritious fresh meals every school day
  • Delicious and nutritious meals are cooked from scratch on-site using whole food ingredients, often from local farms and school gardens
  • Lessons Learnt: government policy and support and integration into curriculum are key factors for success.

School lunches in Japan typically feature soups, vegetables, fish, meat and rice cooked on site with fresh, whole food ingredients. All students are served the same meal and lunch is eaten together in the classroom as around a family table. School lunches are seen as part of official curriculum with opportunities for shokuiku  (food and nutrition education), teamwork, community service and building food literacy.

Students take responsibility for setting up tables, fetching food from the school kitchen, serving and clean up. This regular involvement with food is seen as creating an appreciation for food and healthy eating habits for the long term. Many schools have school farms allowing students to experience the entire cycle from seed to plate. Seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms are often identified and celebrated building a connection to and appreciation for local food and agriculture.

History

There was a gradual progression of government policies resulting in the current national lunch program:

  • Late 19th Century: some schools provide lunches for low-income children
  • 1954: Following WWII, the School Lunch Act institutes a nationwide program
  • 1970s: Lunch menus shift from foods donated by other countries (such as skim milk and bread) to traditional Japanese menus featuring soups, vegetables, fish, meat and rice
  • 2005: Government enacts law on Shokuiku, food and nutrition education, to be included in all schools
  • 2007: Government advocates for hiring nutrition and dietetics teachers and a small percentage of schools create these positions

Research suggests that schools with Diet and Nutrition teachers have seen a positive impact “in terms of awareness and interest in diet among teachers and guardians…the proportion of children skipping breakfast has decreased, and quality of life has been improved” and that school lunches “play a role in reducing disparities in the diets of children from households with various incomes.”  

What Else? Other Relevant Examples

Successful school food programs include those supported by government, non-governmental organizations, and community groups:

  • Brazil: Brazil has had a mandatory school food program since 1955 and as of 2009, government policy requires that at least 30% of food ingredients used for the program were organic products from local farms. Learn More…
  • United Kingdom: Food for Life is an independent, non-governmental certification for healthy, sustainable food in institutions including schools that provides resources for schools to make the transition to good food. Their “unique, whole school approach makes a positive contribution to pupil health and wellbeing.” Learn More…
  • Canada: In the absence of government policy and supports, community groups such as Better School Food Nova Scotia are working towards enabling cafeteria staff “to prepare healthy, nourishing meals for students using as much locally produced food as possible.” Many schools in the region have improved menus, added salad bars and seen an increase in student fruit and vegetable consumption. Learn More…

Food for Thought
What are ways that you can help make sustainable and healthy food part of menus where you work?
What will encourage decision makers in your organization or community to see the value of providing healthy and sustainable food?

Contact Information
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)
Address: 3-2-2 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8959, Japan
Phone: +81-3-5253-4111