Reducing food waste shouldn't be a hard equation to solve, Source: Unsplash

Espoo schools cut food waste by involving students in meal planning (Part 1)

Espoo schools cut food waste by involving students in meal planning (Part 1)

The reasoning behind this is as simple as it is profound – make the food tastier for the youngsters so less of it will go into the trash

According to the City of Espoo’s official website, the municipal schools have managed to reduce the amount of food waste they produce by 4 percent every year. The question of proper food utilization has become even more pertinent this year, what with the rise in commodity prices and inflation.

Generally, in Western societies, generations have been raised with a mindset of abundance, which is a direct cause of the increase in food waste and mismanagement of resources. That is why schools in that Finnish city have decided to involve young people more closely in the meal planning and food waste management processes. Here’s how.

Putting flavour first

Healthy nutrition is important for learning and remaining energised,” says Harri Rinta-aho, Director of Growth and Learning. “It would be good for children and young people to eat food every day in day-care centres, comprehensive schools and upper secondary schools.

And when the food is tasty, there will be less wasted food. In schools in Espoo, pupils have many opportunities to influence their meals.

In spring 2021, a school meals project was started in lower secondary schools aiming to make the kids eat more school food. Four Finnish-language schools and one Swedish-language school were selected for project workshops.

One of the topics in the school meals project was how to increase the appreciation of food in order to eat the food taken and reduce food waste, and more specifically the so-called plate waste.

The data collected in the workshops has now been analysed, and the next step is to pilot various proposed measures. If the pilots prove successful, the practices can be adopted in other schools and upper secondary schools as well.

Study the taste patterns of the students

Food recommendations by food and age group are also observed in the planning of school menus. Not all available foods can necessarily suit everyone’s tastes. In this case, it should be remembered that school and daycare centre meals always play a significant educational role - an opportunity to taste new flavours and dishes.

Year after year, favourite foods for Finnish children and young people are fish sticks, spinach pancakes, carrot patties, meatballs, traditional meat macaroni casserole and certain porridges, and these are, of course, included in the menu.

New meals are offered several times to see if children and young people want to eat them. If the food in question is not liked resulting in food waste, the food should not be kept on the menu.

There are even more ways to involve young people in reducing food waste from school (and at home). Find out what these are in the second part of this article.



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