As a member of the International Food Waste Coalition (IWFC), Sodexo is helping to reduce the waste created by school meals by supporting the SKOOL program. IFWC project manager Thomas Candeal gives an update on a program launched in January 2016.
Could you describe the SKOOL project?
Thomas Candeal: School Kitchen Optimisation, Organisation and Learning is a program run by the International Food Waste Coalition, which was founded by Sodexo, five other food service companies – Ardo, McCain, PepsiCo, SCA and Unilever Food Solutions - and the WWF. SKOOL tackles food waste at schools in three ways: educating children about the issue; optimizing processes in the kitchen and cafeteria; and encouraging stakeholders to collaborate on reducing waste from farm to plate.
Why should schoolchildren be aware of food waste?
T.C.: From a practical viewpoint, a child typically throws away 17 kilos of school food a year according to research in France, so there is a real opportunity to make savings. The other reason is that these children are our future, so helping them to reduce waste also teaches them about the value of food and its link with health, the environment and also the values we have as a society, such as respect for those who lack food.
How can SKOOL help Sodexo to combat hunger and lower greenhouse gas emissions?
T.C.: If there is less waste, Sodexo can help combat hunger indirectly by reducing the amount of food that it needs to source on the open market to prepare its meals. By extension, that policy will make more food available to others. Clearly, every saving in terms of food resources, transport, storage, processing and preparation will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the overall environmental footprint of the company.
How has the program evolved in 2016-17, from 2015-16?
T.C.: The feedback has helped us to fully revise the school materials; by reducing the amount of text, for example, and increasing the focus on interactive, ‘discovery learning.’ We also produced materials for four age groups instead of three, to allow for different reading ages, and have gone from six schools in three countries - France, Italy and the UK - to 17 schools in four countries, by adding Belgium.
So how has SKOOL performed over the past year?
T.C.: Food waste at several schools was cut by 15%, compared to a 12% fall in the first year. Emanuel School in London, for example, reduced food waste from an overall level of 116g/meal to 98g, a saving of about 3,7 tons of food a year – worth €17,000. In Paris, the Carpeaux maternelle reduced waste by 430 kilos this year, by educating children to take only what they need. Meanwhile, the number of SKOOL pupils rose from nearly 1,400 in 2016 to more than 5,000 in 2017. Applying the average 15% food waste reduction rate over a year to the 14 schools and 8 kitchens involved in 2017 would mean a saving of 7.7 tons of food (more than 15 000 meals) and financial savings of more than €35,000.
What kinds of initiatives led to these savings?
T.C.: In Nancy, children weighed the remnants of their meals and made posters about food waste. With the support of the local council, we also developed a special training program for the school’s canteen staff. Industry collaboration also played its part, with efforts being made to optimize the raw ingredients being used for a recipe. For example, by using different cuts of beef, we were able to reduce the amount of cattle needed to provide the meat for ‘boeuf bourguignon’ for 7,000 children in Chalons-sur-Saône, France. In the same local program, perfectly good - but misshapen - apples are now being turned into compotes.
What else have you learned from SKOOL?
T.C.: We found that schools who used our materials intensively in the first year, like Nancy and Calcinato, Italy, used them just as much the following year - which shows that they really work. At Calcinato, we saw the benefits of having a member of kitchen staff acting as a program coordinator, and of teachers using the materials to deliver broader lessons on biology and geography. At Emanuel, the success is mainly down to the engagement of canteen staff, who ask pupils about portion sizes, and the detailed monitoring of waste targets on a daily and monthly basis. We are learning from all these experiences.
What lies ahead for SKOOL?
T.C.: We would like to translate our materials into more EU languages, notably German and Spanish. At a higher level, we are hoping to promote SKOOL to the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste - with a view to the content being distributed by the EU and Member States. We also want to step up our partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Already involved with the educational side of SKOOL, we would like the FAO’s help with process optimization and industry collaboration too. We have made great progress already with SKOOL, but the lessons are far from over.