A support programme for primary schools is encouraging children to finish their school meals and reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill.
Officers from Reading Borough Council’s School Meals Service have visited six primary schools in the last three months to support lunchtime staff and encourage pupils to Love School Food, Hate Waste.
Initial results show that schools that have participated in the programme have seen an average reduction of 28% in the amount of food wasted per week, with one school achieving a 40% decrease. Two schools were found to have been wasting 125kg a week, or the equivalent of nearly 5000 packets of crisps or 1100 bananas. These schools successfully decreased their average daily food waste from 25kg a day to 18kg after participating in the programme, and they hope to reduce this figure further.
When children eat all of their school dinner, they get the benefits of a nutritious, balanced meal; they are helping the environment by producing less rubbish; and the school saves money by not having to pay for the disposal of perfectly good, but wasted, food.
So far, 2410 pupils have attended a special assembly on the impact of food waste and what they can do to reduce it. Children are taught that it is not ok to throw away good food as they need it to grow big and strong, that food waste contributes to climate change and that it is wrong to bin food when children elsewhere go hungry.
Top tips being shared with schools include staff sitting with children to encourage them to finish their meal, parents and children choosing school meal options together so that pupils are ordering the food they enjoy the most, and children asking themselves ‘what else is on my plate that I can eat?’ before leaving the dining hall and enjoying the rest of their lunchtime.
The schools’ programme comes at a time when re3, the waste management partnership for Bracknell Forest, Reading and Wokingham Borough Councils, is supporting residents to waste less food through help and advice on social media and free Love Food Hate Waste training sessions.
The average family could save up to £700 a year by not binning food that hasn’t been eaten. By throwing away food, people are paying for it twice, from their grocery budget and from their council tax bills for its disposal.
Bracknell Forest’s Executive Member for Environment and Chairman of the Joint Waste Disposal Board, Cllr Mrs Dorothy Hayes MBE said: “Wasting food is wrong. It’s bad for the environment, it drains resources, and it costs millions to clean up. It’s important that children learn that from an early age, and considerable effort is being done throughout the re3 council area to support them and their families to make the most of their food.
Parents can help by making sure that they are ordering their children’s favourites for school dinners. All school food is prepared with care and attention, is tasty and nutritious, and it is such a shame to waste it.”
Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Neighbourhoods, Cllr Liz Terry said: “The Love School Food Hate Waste programme shows that making a few, simple changes can have a big impact on the amount of food a school bins and pays for to be processed. We can all help to reduce food waste. There’s lots of advice from re3 on their website and on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, just search for re3 recycling.”
Wokingham Borough Council’s Executive Member for Environment Cllr Angus Ross said: “It’s important that people realise the value of food. The time, money and resources used to grow and distribute it, and the cost of processing it if it is binned instead of being eaten. Some food waste is unavoidable - like fat trimmed off meat or vegetable peelings - but a lot of food waste is still unnecessary. It’s preventable food waste like leftovers, food that has been left to go past its use-by date and produce that was bought but not eaten, that we are targeting and asking residents to support us with.”