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Today, Stop Food Waste Day is back to help educate people globally about the consequences of food wastage and what we can do to help reduce our impact on the planet. With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic felt throughout the school catering industry, #SFWD2021 has come at a key turning point in the tide against food wastage.

Since March last year, the UK food supply chain has suffered a drastic upheaval in the way that it operates, with tons of additional food wastage being created as a result of school and food business closures across the country, as well as alterations in consumer habits.

In a recent report from Footprint Intelligence, sponsored by CRB Cunninghams, 47% of school foodservice professionals said that COVID-19 had a negative impact on the levelling up of the food waste agenda yet, despite this, alongside a worrying influx of wasted food, they believe that the momentum is building to change a broken system.

So how can sustainability be prioritised by schools and the rest of the education catering industry during COVID-19?

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Implement Technology

27% of report respondents said that food waste management plans had been put on hold last year, but pushing technology plans forward could be the key to reducing food wastage and creating important savings for schools.

Innovative pre-order apps such as CRBC’s Fusion Online allows pupils to pre-order their favourite school meals directly from their smartphones helping to reduce queue times, encourage parental engagement and more importantly, reduce the need for over-catering. The app enables kitchen teams to know exactly what meals to prepare - instantly reducing the amount of food they inadvertently throw away.

Pre-order apps also remove the opportunity for hunger-based decisions, which encourages students to choose healthy and nutritious meals instead of unhealthy options. 41% of foodservice professionals declared that embracing technology like Fusion Online helped them reduce food wastage and increase other kitchen efficiencies overnight.

Fusion Online also seamlessly integrates with cashless catering software, allowing pupils and parents to check and update their online payment balance anytime, anywhere, whilst helping with school sustainability targets and eliminating the need to print paper receipts.

Between lowering food waste and reducing excess food production, it is clear to see why implementing new technology is better for pupils, schools, and the planet.

Serve Locally Grown Food

74% of respondents from the Footprint Intelligence report agreed that the pandemic has improved communication between the supply chain and other partners. This is a significant improvement and vital in maintaining a consistent service in school kitchens, however many education facilities around the country have adapted their outsourcing approach and looked to support their local businesses and communities in supplying delicious produce for students.

One school caterer in Somerset said: “Some of our larger, regional suppliers have still not un-furloughed all of their sales staff and have limited stock availability. This has led us to ask more of our smaller, local, often family-run suppliers who have been only too willing to help us in any way they can during these challenging months.”

Serving locally grown food means that there are fewer emissions produced in transporting supplies from far-afield. The average fresh food item travels 1,500 miles to arrive on our dinner table, creating a huge carbon footprint per ingredient in a full meal.

Buying food from local sources reduces the need for fuel-intensive transportation and  enables schools to alter their menus to offer students a refreshing taste of what is grown in their local community.

Additionally, it is advised by BetterFood to select farmers that follow organic and sustainable practices to minimise the environmental impact of meals and ensure that only the freshest, most eco-conscious food reaches your student’s plate.

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 Stay Educated, Informed and Accountable

It’s easy to stick with what we know but keeping educated on sustainable practices, informed on what we can do to help our planet and accountable for our actions is key in prioritising sustainability in our schools.

Stop Food Waste Day is leading the mission to ignite change on the global food waste issue, and you can get involved! Take a food waste pledge, join their virtual event or try these great recipes to make the most out of the food in your home or the school kitchen. It’s never too late to #StopFoodWaste.

For more information about #SFWD, please visit their website: https://www.stopfoodwasteday.com/en/about.html

Or learn more about the benefits of eating local produce here: http://bit.ly/CRBCBenefitsOfEatingLocalProduce