Let kids learn about their own food impact on the environment, Source: Depositphotos

Espoo schools cut food waste by involving students in meal planning (Part 2)

Espoo schools cut food waste by involving students in meal planning (Part 2)

More good practices from a Finnish city that cares what its young ones eat

Finnish schools and kindergartens have taken the challenge to decrease the food waste they produce for years already. The latest approaches have started paying attention to the very beneficiaries of the meal services – the pupils.

Rather than treat them as passive consumers, the new ideas recognize the agency of the youth and seek to involve them in crafting better meal plans, which remain tasty and healthy, but also less harmful to the environment.

School education moves from the classrooms to the cafeteria

Vegetarian options have long been present on the menu at local schools, but here’s the kicker - the children would also like it to be tastier. As a solution, home economics classes have participated in recipe competitions to develop vegetarian meals, and the best recipes have become part of school menus. This has allowed pupils to participate in the development of their school meals themselves.

Another way students have been directly involved was through the observation of a national Food Waste Week (it falls on 12-18 September this year). The aim of the event is to provide more information on reducing food waste and making sustainable food choices.

For example, children and teenagers are reminded that they should only take as much food as they can eat on their plates. Some schools and educational institutions use bio-waste scales in their cafeterias. This allows pupils to visualize and see how much bio-waste is generated after their mealtime.

Some of Espoo's youth facilities utilise waste food from shops, the best-before date of which is about to expire or which has been removed from sales, despite still being edible. For example, the Suvela youth centre has agreed with the local Alepa store that they can enquire after any waste food or groceries approaching their expiration date on Fridays.

Susanna Heinälehto, youth counsellor at Suvela youth centre, says that the youth centre has received waste food as a donation a couple of times a month. The shop has usually been able to provide fruit and vegetables, but sometimes also bread.

Heinälehto points out that young people have been excited about cooking together and have prepared many different dishes. Potatoes, for example, can be roasted on a frying pan, and fruit has often been eaten as a snack as is.

More than a hundred young people visit the youth centre on the busiest nights, so the food is quickly eaten up by rapidly growing young people. And just like that, waste food is prevented from turning into food waste.



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