2022 Food Waste Project

Exploring the impact of plate waste

This project examined whether the Eat Them To Defeat Them (ETTDT) Schools campaign, which seeks to increase children’s consumption of vegetables, is associated with a reduction in food waste in the school dining environment.  

The data was collected from schools supplied by Education Catering before, during and post campaign. Results from an independent evaluation by Loughborough University showed that the campaign is associated with a reduction in plate waste.  

Differences in food plate waste reduction between Eco and Non-Eco schools were seen, where schools with Eco status demonstrated clear reductions in plate waste across the campaign, while Non-Eco schools did not. 

Whether plate waste changed and by how much varied a lot between schools before, during and after the campaign. We remain convinced that measuring plate waste is a good strategy to assess vegetable consumption before and after the campaign. However, it is somewhat challenging to do this effectively and therefore we will look at what we can do differently in the future to obtain clearer data.  

Eat Them To Defeat Them partner logo

Food Waste Intervention  

Ten schools were recruited to provide weekly data on the number of portions of lunch served, and the amount of plate waste as measured in the school mealtime setting over a 9-week period (pre, during and post campaign).  

Among the ten participating schools, five had Eco status (from here on described as Eco schools), while five did not (from here on described as Non-Eco schools).  

  • Average weight of plate waste per meal decreased by
  • 8.11g
  • during the campaign

Eco Status

Results highlighted that there was a decrease in mean plate waste of 14% from 77.20g per serving pre-campaign to 66.36g per serving post-campaign within Eco-Schools (a 10.84g reduction).

  • Plate waste decreased by an average of
  • 14%
  • in eco schools post campaign

Top performing school

In the top performing school, plate waste was reduced by 21% (18.6g) during the campaign, and by 25% (21.87g) post campaign. Therefore, we will look more closely at the practices within this school to obtain learnings for future projects and other schools. We do, however, believe this shows what is possible if managed effectively.

  • The top performing school reduced plate waste by
  • 25%
  • post campaign

War on Waste

In 2022 some of our schools measured plated food waste to see if the campaign reduced the amount of waste at lunchtime and how much carbon emissions we produced. We did this in collaboration with our schools and involved pupil waste champions to enhance their learning. The data was assessed and validated by the University of Loughborough.

Empty cartoon waste bin

Key insights  

Evidence that food plate waste in schools decreased during and post campaign

Reductions in food waste were seen more commonly in Eco schools
Food waste generated was highly variable, across weeks and across schools
Data collection from schools was variable and challenging, resulting in some missing data and one school for which no data was available

The small number of schools limits the analyses that could be done but initial analyses suggest great promise from the ETTDT campaign in helping to reduce food waste

Further evaluation of food plate waste reduction from a wider range of schools and with more complete data points (especially post-campaign) is recommended