How to reduce food waste in schools

How to reduce food waste in schools

Food waste is an issue in many schools, but it is often one that goes unnoticed as uneaten food can go straight from the lunchbox into the rubbish bin without anyone seeing it.

There are several sources of food waste in schools:

How much of an issue is it?

A number of New Zealand schools have done food waste audits and looked to see how much avoidable food waste their students were throwing away. In one primary school, the children from one class threw away 3.7 kg of edible food a day. This amounts to 18 kilograms a week or 180 kilograms a term for just one class!

Half-eaten sandwiches and apples are some of the most commonly thrown away foods.

Wasted apples

These apples were wasted by one classroom at a primary school in Nelson.

What can schools do to reduce food waste?

Food Sharing Table

There are a number of different strategies schools can use for reducing food waste:

  1.  Identify the main source of the waste by conducting a food waste audit. Click here to find out how to measure the food waste for a whole school or here to measure the food waste for your class.
  2. Have a plan in place for how to deal with predictable food waste e.g. if planning a school fair, sausage sizzle or shared lunch make sure there are spare containers available for people to take food home, or have a plan in place to discount unsold items.
  3. Have a “pack in and pack out” school lunch box policy where children take home their uneaten lunches. as well as reducing the amount of food waste the school needs to dispose of, it also allows parents to see how much and what their children are eating and may encourage parents to change how much lunch they provide.
  4. Some schools have found that allowing students to play first and then coming inside to eat lunch reduces how much food is wasted and improves students concentration and performance in the afternoon. View the research. 
  5. Teachers actively reminding students to eat all their lunch has also been effective in reducing how much students waste.
  6. Some schools have created sharing tables where students can leave their uneaten lunches.

Want to teach your students how to waste less food? Click here for our lesson plans.