School canteen significantly reduces food waste

31 October 2023 By

Between the Christmas and summer holidays, the Billerbeck canteen had been using the plate waste tracker from the Swedish company Matomatic, seeking to reduce food waste. How effectively these scales can reduce food waste and what effect this has on sustainability has been tested in LOWINFOOD.

The canteen team, led by Rosie Westerhoff, provides the school community in Billerbeck with freshly prepared meals, day by day. The topic of food waste prevention has played a major role in this, and not just since last year. The kitchen manager affirms: “When we produce our food, we always have in mind to cook only as much as is needed. The question remains how to increase the pupils’ awareness of this important topic.

The canteen team around Rosie Westerhoff and the participating research team of the LOWINFOOD partner Dr Christina Strotmann from the Institute of Sustainable Nutrition of Münster University of Applied Sciences encouraged the pupils to use the scales after eating and explained the background of the campaign. Strotmann assures that it is not about pointing the finger at those who did not finish their portion. “We don’t want to name guilty parties or control them”. Rather, it is about showing the children and young people the waste of resources that goes hand in hand with throwing away food and making them aware of their own possibilities of exerting influence. This includes, for example, asking for tasting portions of unfamiliar dishes or smaller portions when they are not very hungry. Parents are also called upon here, says the researcher, because if they order over their children’s heads, unwanted surprises at the food counter also lead to full plates when the trays are returned.

But what did the project achieve? Around a third less food waste was produced at the school. Before the use of the plate waste tracker, this was a daily average of 53 grams, and in the end only 36 grams per person. Compared to other schools internationally, these are very low figures, says Strotmann and affirms: “We are very proud of the pupils and the team of the canteen.” What’s next? The head of the kitchen, Ms Westerhoff, wants the project to have a lasting effect and has therefore already planned to use the plate waste tracker again after the Christmas holidays. “This way we not only sensitise the new pupils to the topic but also remind our older ones.”

In the picture above, part of the Billerbeck canteen team