The research, Food Waste in Schools, was undertaken to understand more about which types of food are wasted and the reasons why this happens. It is hoped the findings can identify opportunities for schools and caterers to reduce food waste in schools.
The study looked at both the detailed make-up of the waste and where in the process the waste arose. It also talked to schools and school meal providers to understand their views about why they thought food was being wasted. Wastage seemed to be higher in primary schools than secondary schools - estimated at 50,000 tonnes compared to 30,000.
The research summarised possible changes into three main areas:
• cooking meals to order
• improving the dining experience
• improving familiarity and appreciation of school meals.
The research was supported by some small scale trial interventions which suggest school-level changes can positively impact on food waste, without any negative implications for nutrition - indeed, many of these interventions might improve nutritional intake, if students are happier eating different and more varied foods, or less inclined to leave meals unfinished.
The reasons food is wasted are wide ranging, but can be grouped as operational - relating to policies and practices around school food, situational - relating to the environment in which school meals are eaten rather than the food itself, and behavioural - relating to individual actions and preferences. As the specific combination of causes of food waste will vary from school to school, a one size fits all approach to minimising food waste is not available.
In the cooking to order trial 71 per cent of all respondents rated the intervention as "highly successful" or "successful". Pupils received information on menu options in advance. Menu choices were recorded during registration each day and this information was communicated to the kitchen staff by 9.30am every morning. Pupils were given a coloured wrist band identifying their meal choice so there was no confusion at lunch time. This intervention requires a pre-pay system for meals within the school, as well as an efficient way to record and communicate student meal choices in a timely manner.
Information about the approaches tested in the trials is available for schools who would like to take action, at:
The report is available, in two forms, as follows, from WRAP's website:
Food Waste in Schools Summary Report (0.3 MB)
Food Waste in Schools Full report (1 MB)