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The UK's first ever Food Waste Action Week takes place this week, following the government's landmark Environmental Bill, introduced in January this year. We thought this would be a great time to start our blog on the University Centre website! Here at the University Catering Service, one of our main focuses in sustainable food is reducing food waste. We will share with you how we have reduced food waste and give some tips on how to reduce food waste while at home!

We have been working to reduce our food waste since the introduction of the Sustainable Food Policy in 2016. It has only been recently that we have been able to accurately measure this, but we managed to reduce our food waste in 2019 by 6% from 2018. Most food waste in catering operations is wasted at the end of the supply chain, where the disposal of edible food can be driven by excessive portion sizes, wasteful sales practices and unnecessary aesthetic standards. With this in mind, we undertook numerous actions to reduce our food waste:

  • Customers were often not finishing their large portion sizes food and hence throwing left-over food away. So, we decided to make our portion size smaller, to match what the customer actually eats. Organisations often say this is important in promoting good health because we often eat portion sizes that are larger than we actually need. A win-win situation!
  • We work out our busy days, weeks or even months of the year and prepare accordingly. We match supply with demand based on previous experience, so if we know a particular day or week is less busy, then chefs make less portions of food to match it. This was a great way to reduce our food waste.
  • In the kitchen, chefs also reuse food when it is safe to do so, and they have learnt how to use every part of a food item so that it doesn't need to go to waste without having reached its full potential.
  • Measuring food waste is a great way of identifying how much food we were actually wasting. Food waste bins are available in both cafe seating areas and in the kitchens. We found that customers were still putting food waste in the wrong bins, and so to get around this we invested in clear signage for the bin stations so that customers know which bin is for what item.

So what can you do? Around the world, over one third of edible food is wasted for numerous reasons. In the UK alone, we waste 6.5 million tonnes of food a year. Why is it important that we reduce this number? Well, first of all every household could save money by getting the full use of each food item that they purchase: WRAP UK suggests that every family throws away the equivalent of £730 of food every year.  Food requires all sorts of natural resources to grow, and then be transported to supermarkets for us to buy, and it's important that these processes aren't going to waste. See Unilever's Reducing Food Waste site to find out more. Here's what you can do to reduce food waste at home:

  • Did you know that the way food is stored has a role on how long it's edible for? Use Love Food Hate Waste's A to Z Food Storage guide to help you store food in the best way.
  • Shop smart: plan your meals and only purchase food that you'll need for these meals.
  • Make your own vegetable stock from vegetable peelings.
  • If you have found yourself with more time on your hands due to the current situation, why not try to use every part of a food item? Visit Love Food Hate Waste's site to find out how to use all the edible parts of a food item that you may have otherwise thrown away.
  • Store left overs and eat them for lunch the next day.
  • Explore other ways to reduce food waste using Healthline's article here.

Share with us any other hints and tips you have to reduce food waste and hopefully we can reduce food waste together!