The importance of reducing food waste in schools

Inspiring kids to eat healthy, waste less & be change-makers!

A guest blog from the FEAST team at Twinkl, an online platform that supports the global teaching community and committed to transforming people’s lives through education. In the article we will discuss the importance of reducing food waste in your school and at home by providing some great activities and more information about the FEAST program.

OzHarvest is passionate about minimising food waste and protecting our environment for future generations. There is enough food produced in the world to feed everyone, but one third of all food produced is lost or waste! 

When it comes to fighting food waste, kids are the future change-makers and are extremely passionate about protecting the environment. That is why OzHarvest developed a curriculum aligned primary school program FEAST, to inspire students to eat healthy and reduce food waste. Read further for more tips to fight food waste in your school and make a difference!

FEAST program in action
FEAST program in action
Why we need to fight food waste and inspire kids to eat healthy & be change makers!

How can we inspire our students (and community) to live a better and more sustainable life? Apart from reducing single-use plastic, using renewable energy, eating less meat, there’s an easy thing we all can do…stop wasting food!

Did you know that Australia wastes 7.3 million tonnes of food each year? [1] National Food Waste Baseline Report
That’s 298 kgs per person every year, the same weight as six adult kangaroos!

Why is wasting food problematic?

Wasting food wastes everything! It’s not just the food that goes to waste, it’s all the resources it takes to produce the food, such as water, energy, labour, money and love.

Fight Food Waste Campaign
Fight Food Waste Campaign

Food left to rot in landfill releases methane – one of the most toxic greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) if food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after USA and China. Food waste is literally costing us the earth.

It’s plain crazy that so much perfectly edible food goes to waste, while so many people do not have enough food to eat. According to the Australian Child Wellbeing Project, one child in every classroom goes to bed or school hungry every day.

How does it happen?

Food waste occurs along the whole supply chain; roughly a third from farms, a third from manufacturing and industry, and a third from households.

There are many reasons why food goes to waste. In today’s society, we have the illusion that food is disposable. With relatively low prices, and constant supply, we have lost our connection with food, where it comes from, and its true value. Young people’s basic food knowledge is lacking. OzHarvest’s school ambassadors say it is shocking to hear that some kids think food just comes from the supermarket or that bread comes from a bread tree!

The good news is that most food waste is easily avoidable! We are all part of the solution and together we can fight food waste and educate children, starting today!

So, how can we do that? – OzHarvest has developed a program for schools to become food waste fighters which is one of the ways you can start to fight food waste.

Get everyone on board!
The culmination of the program is the ‘School Cookbook’ which brings to life everything the students have learnt about food waste and healthy eating.
The culmination of the program is the ‘School Cookbook’ which brings to life everything the students have learnt about food waste and healthy eating.

Get your whole school involved and sign up your school for OzHarvest’s curriculum-aligned education program FEAST which provides you access to teacher training and great resources to inspire Aussie kids to reduce food waste in school and at home, eat healthy and become change-makers.

Find out more about FEAST and register your school and join OzHarvest in our exciting and impactful journey! You can also visit the Fight Food Waste section of the OzHarvest website to help educate your wider community and encourage action at home.

Investigate and measure your school’s food waste!
  • As a class exercise, look at what’s in the bins around school. Identify how much edible food is thrown away, and what type of food it is. Ask questions like: Is it healthy or unhealthy? Are any vitamins and/or minerals wasted? After you’ve sparked up some conversations with your students, record the amount that has been wasted.

Please wear gloves for health and safety!

  • Identify the five most wasted food items and where these come from (lunchbox or school canteen) and devise a plan to target these food types.
  • Write up all your findings, including the estimated quantity of food wasted in the bins (in kilos), and set your school a reduction target. “Our school will reduce food waste in all bins by 30% within the six months.”
  • Present your findings to your principal and rest of school, again to engage them to be part of this campaign! This is also a great way for the students to practice their presentation skills!
  • Discover the causes of food waste!
  • Encourage your students to interview each other about what they throw away and why?
  • Research where food comes from. There are plenty of online videos that explain what resources go into producing food. Discuss their own situation, who has a garden and grows fruit, veggies or herbs? Share with your class how much time, labour and love go into taking care of this produce. Also, think of all the water it needs, and soil, and sun…It’s shocking how much precious resources we waste because of food waste!
  • Research why food waste is so bad for the environment.
Get thinking about solutions
  • Brainstorm solutions that can help reduce food waste and how to avoid it. For example, what is the most wasted food item in school and how can we stop it from going from our lunchbox or canteen into the bin?
  • Take action and share with the whole school.
  • Create forms for people to pledge to the campaign.
  • Set up green bins with clear signage.
  • Set up worm farms and compost bins so food waste does not go to landfill.
Make everyone part of the solution
  • Create your own posters and next steps signage (how everyone sticks to the plan). Twinkl’s Create tool is fantastic for creating your own class posters!
  • Use other ways to communicate your plan – school assembly, presentation, environment group, classroom discussions, videos, P&C Committee and canteen staff.
  • Create an incentive scheme for your school community (students and teachers) to help remind everyone about the actions that need to be taken.
  • Set up target and deadline.
  • Check in and measure impact!
  • Get the gloves out and measure the waste in the bins – has it improved?
  • Record the volume of wastage and the specific food items – did you achieve your goal?
  • Write down your findings and think of ways to improve or revise action points.

Celebrate and do it again! Keep going, proudly share your achievements and tackle a new target food item or set a new target.

OzHarvest FEAST students completed the program.
OzHarvest FEAST students completed the program.

Interested to learn more about reducing food waste in your school? Have a look at FEAST or email [email protected] with any questions.

Photo credits: Lucyleonardiphotography