How technology reduces food wastage
With the newly renewed prevalence of the food wastage issue, it is becoming more apparent than ever that the education sector needs to do its part to reduce the environmental impact of its catering systems and promote sustainability in schools.
A report published by Wrap.Org discovered food wastage from both primary and secondary schools as a result of a multitude of issues, including:
- The absence of ordering systems leading to kitchens over-catering for an unknown number of students
- Students at the end of the queue not being able to receive their food of choice, causing them to choose a meal they did not want and later waste it
- Pupils not knowing what meal options were available to them
- Lack of flexibility and control over food combinations or menus
However, with the help of pre-ordering technology - which has seen an increase in demand in recent years - schools can crackdown on food wastage and make massive savings on their budgets with a tailored and streamlined pre-order system for pupils.
Sustainability is now a vital factor in the fight for the future of our planet. With food wastage accounting for almost a quarter of all artificial greenhouse gases, reducing the number of meals in landfills is vital.
In fact, in an article published by Greener Kirkcaldy, it was said that “if food wastage were a country, it would be ranked third after the US and China in terms of greenhouse gas production.” With a pre-order app, school catering teams can know ahead of time which quantity of each meal option to produce before anyone ever steps foot into a queue - creating an immediate reduction in overall food wastage in schools.
We recently discussed on our blog how the wastage of meals costs schools over £250 million each year, meaning there is more reason than ever to implement pre-ordering into your education environment.
How does pre-ordering reduce food wastage?
Pupils can order what they want before lunchtime, meaning a faster queuing system with the food already prepared. Therefore, over-catering is eliminated, with reduced contact with other students, which has renewed importance amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pre-order apps are also highly customisable, meaning schools can alter every aspect of a meal or remove items to suit students' personal preferences. Customising lunch choices takes away unwanted ingredients pupils would otherwise waste, not to mention the benefits of data trend predictions that can prevent the ordering of unnecessary stock and advanced preparation.
Does pre-ordering sound like something that could benefit your school? Introduce pre-order technology as a seamless addition to your cashless catering system.
Learn more > https://www.amieducation.com/products-and-solutions
Over the past two years, the Coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread chaos and disruption across the country, perhaps most notably to children and staff in education.
Since March 2020, UK children have spent months in and out of local and national lockdowns. These disruptions resulted in an unprecedented amount of time missed from the classroom and a nationwide appeal to increase the standards of home food parcels for free school meal kids who missed out on their regular hot and healthy meals usually served from the canteen.
Despite the hardships and challenges that everyone in education catering has faced, it’s been brilliant to see how the industry has bounced back since reopening.
Food Parcels and School Responses
In January of this year, one mother took to Twitter to express her shock over the quality of a food parcel she had received. The image shared 15,000 times on social media sparked a considerable discussion across the UK about the quantity and quality of food distributed to children's homes claiming free school meal provision.
In response to the criticism, some schoolteachers and caterers began stepping in to help struggling children and parents from their own pockets, showing the incredible kindness of those working in education.
One school staff member, Zane Powels, donated 7,500 meals in total alongside laptops to assist vulnerable children whilst they were learning at home. The hero from Western Primary School in Grimsby was given an MBE for his extraordinary efforts, delivering 138 meals a day to children - walking a total of 550 miles during last year’s first lockdown.
Another team of school caterers from Thomas Deacon Education Trust in Peterborough also pulled together to deliver 600 meal parcels over four weeks. Catering Operations Manager for TDET, Michael Dove, said: “It has been an honour to support our local community throughout this pandemic. We understand that food plays an important role in enabling our pupils to achieve their very best. For some children, the meal they would usually have at school would be their only hot meal of the day, and we must continue to provide this for them in the best way we can.”
This collective effort of school caterers led to a nationwide review of the school meal packages, prompting change and helping to protect vulnerable children at a time when they needed it most.
Reopening School Kitchens
When schools returned, the standard lunch service had changed completely. New social distancing measures were in place, and more schools started to implement pre-ordering solutions to allow for a safer and simpler grab-and-go system.
Not only could thousands of vital school caterers return to working at full capacity, but the pause from ordinary operations has allowed the industry to revaluate its approaches towards sustainability and food waste.
A report produced by Footprint Intelligence which focused on conquering challenges in education catering during COVID-19, discovered that 75% of foodservice professionals believed that sustainability had been side-lined because of the pandemic. A further 96% reported that COVID-19 had increased the use of disposables. But there is hope! The same people noted that other solutions are proven to work, including existing crockery and reusable options such as bento boxes and how there was now the momentum to change a broken system.
The report concluded that with the learnings of the pandemic considered, there is no better time than now to begin future-proofing the school lunch service for the benefit of the planet. Whether it be through trailing a plant-based menu, implementing pre-ordering solutions, or pushing for policy changes, the resilience from the education catering industry throughout these challenging times has meant that it now can bounce back better than ever before.
Celebrating the education catering industry
Finally, it’s been a challenging year, so celebrating the work of the industry is paramount. With awards such as The LACA Awards For Excellence and the Public Sector Catering Awards on the calendar, these events will allow us to celebrate the unsung heroes of the pandemic and push the industry to even greater heights as it bounces back to its former glory.
We can’t wait to see what happens next.
When presented with a slice of pizza or a salad, most pupils will likely choose the pizza. The fast, greasy, and fried option will ultimately appeal to many students.
When faced with this reality, combined with the ever-increasing accessibility of fast, takeaway foods from outlets such as Deliveroo and JustEat, schools and parents face increasing challenges to get pupils to make healthier eating choices in schools. At ami Education, we are looking at practical and straightforward ways to encourage healthy eating in schools and the impact on pupils.
Emphasise nutrition education
Many of us understand how the food we eat impacts our everyday life, including our concentration levels, mood, skin, hair, and even sleep. However, some pupils, especially those without an active interest in food and nutrition, risk not understanding the full extent to which the food they put in their bodies affects their life.
Schools, parents, and guardians can take an active role in educating pupils about nutrition and the impact of a healthy diet on their ability to learn and their life outside of the classroom.
Focusing on how food can make us feel and demonstrating how the choices we make regarding food directly affects the way we behave enables action-based learning, which pupils can apply to their everyday life.
For example, demonstrating how switching from white pasta to wholewheat pasta can keep us fuller for longer and reduce the risk of excess snacking and how simple changes can significantly impact and encourage pupils to take an active role in their health.
Food labels and online resources
Nutrition and allergen information on food labels is mandatory. With Natasha’s Law soon to come into effect, which will require all food businesses, including school caterers, to include accurate and in-depth ingredient lists on food labels, pupils must learn what this information means to them.
Nutrition information can help us make informed food choices. Educating pupils on reading and processing food labels is crucial, especially if we want pupils to carry healthy eating habits into adulthood.
Teachers can provide worksheets for pupils to fill in and compare food labels from different products in the classroom. Food A Fact Of Life, managed by the British Nutrition Foundation, which provides free educational resources for nutrition education, suggests providing pupils with clean packaging from a range of standard and healthy food options.
The pupils can read and compare food labels and discuss the findings with their classmates, such as the first ingredient listed in each product, compare the sugar and fat contents, and why some products are more likely to contain higher amounts of sugars than others.
Online resources are not only available to schools but also parents and guardians. Websites such as Change4Life, launched in 2009 as part of a national goal set out in the government’s Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives initiative, is designed to ensure parents and guardians have the essential support and tools they need to make healthier choices for their family.
Change4Life provides fun activities, recipes, and a range of food facts to help educate families on nutrition and provide a fun and interactive way for children to learn about a healthy lifestyle. Visit the Change4Life website to access these resources.
School dinners vs packed lunches
Whilst school catering teams strive to provide nutritious and tasty lunches to help power pupils through the day, the prevalence of packed lunches is a challenge for schools aiming to meet strict nutritional standards.
There is currently no government guidance on packed school lunches in UK schools. Whilst individual schools in England can decide their policy on food brought in from home, compared with hot school meals required to meet strict nutritional standards, packed lunches face fewer restrictions and increase the likelihood of unhealthy food brought in.
Research conducted by the Children’s Food Trust in 2013 compared hot school meals against packed lunches following new compulsory school food standards. The research found that school meals are now consistently more nutritious than packed lunches, giving children who eat them a better foundation for good health.
For pupils of all ages, opting for hot school lunches where possible ensure their lunch choices will contain:
- High-quality meat, poultry or oily fish
- Fruit and vegetables
- Bread, other cereals and potatoes
Parents and pupils can also rest assured that restrictions for hot school meals apply to:
- Drinks with added sugar, crisps, chocolate, or sweets
- Limits of no more than two portions of deep-fried, battered, or breaded food a week
Offer a familiar ordering experience for pupils
Technology plays a significant part in our everyday lives, especially secondary school students. With easily accessible food delivery apps like Uber Eats and Deliveroo on every mobile phone, it has never been easier to provide a solution that competes with these out-of-the-gate spending options and encourage pupils back in the dining hall.
Technology like ami’s Infinity+ Order app breaks the confines of the school dining hall and enables pupils to pre-order their school meals directly from their mobile phone, anytime, anywhere. Infinity+ Order offers secondary school pupils a familiar food ordering method whilst providing a host of other benefits to pupils and school staff, including:
- Reduced lunch queues - pupils pre-order their meals ready to collect at lunchtime
- Pupils can view their live cashless balance and previous transaction history anytime, anywhere
- Helps reduce food wastage by informing school catering teams of what to prepare in advance
- Reporting suite assists with stock control and trend predictions
From ground to fork
An increasing number of UK schools are now dedicating school ground spaces to growing fresh fruit and vegetables to serve in the school dining hall.
This new teaching method encourages pupils to make healthy eating choices in school by involving them in where their food comes from and teaching about food production outside of the classroom and the overall process from ground to fork.
For establishments with ground space to spare, providing areas for pupils to grow fresh fruits and vegetables teaches them to take an active interest in the food they eat.
Teaching pupils the value of growing their food encourages students to opt for lunch choices they grew and provides freshly grown, organic foods that appeal to students.
One UK school pioneering the way in growing and rearing its produce is Charlton Manor Primary School, based in South-East London. Its pupils grow figs, oranges, tomatoes, grapes, and kiwis. There are also chickens and three beehives on-site, whilst the school has a campaign team made up of year 5 and 6 pupils to raise awareness about healthy diets.
“Charlton is a brilliant example of a school bringing together gardening and healthy eating. With vision and a bit of dedication, any school can get growing." Chris Collins, Head of Organic Horticulture for Garden Organic.
Encouraging students to make healthy choices in school can often seem like an uphill battle. With these simple tips and a wealth of online resources available for schools and parents, we can all get involved with inspiring the next generation to take control over their health, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Interested in learning more about Infinity+ Order? Get in touch to learn more about how pre-ordering can benefit your school.