Monitoring food waste in school canteens

Less food waste: a collaboration among Markas, Last Minute Market and municipality of Casciana Terme Lari

31.08.2023 - Italy

With millions of tonnes of food waste generated in the European Union every year and with the global concern over food loss reaching critical levels, Markas continues its efforts towards a more sustainable future.

Earlier in 2023, Markas together with Last Minute Market, a social enterprise offering services against food loss, and in collaboration with the municipality of Casciana Terme Lari and canteen comitee, worked on a food waste monitoring project in school canteens.
The goal? Collect, separate and analyse waste deriving from school catering services in order to better understand the causes and possible solutions when it comes to food loss and leftovers.
food waste in school canteens - kids eating at school
The project
The initial phase of the project included the collection and analysis of leftovers at the canteens of two schools; ‘Salvo D'Acquisto Primary School’ and ‘L. Ciurli Primary School’. Each school was involved for two weeks, between 17th April and 3rd May 2023.
The initiative covered five courses: first course, second course, side dish, bread and fruit or dessert. Meal leftovers were collected, sorted and monitored by the canteen staff, who received special training in order to evaluate and separate food waste correctly.
Following the initial part of the project and the thorough monitoring of leftovers, a detailed report was generated in order to highlight key findings and actionable insights.
food waste in school canteens - a guy tracking raw materials

The study accurately quantified uneaten portions while identifying specific consumption patterns or trends.
For example, the least consumed type of dish was the side dish, while the most consumed one was the first course. When it comes to key ingredients and students’ preferences, meat-based dishes performed much better than dishes based on fish or vegetables.

As a result, all these precious insights allow future menu planning to be more accurate, replacing less appreciated dishes.
Moreover, monitoring and analysing food waste in school canteens can also promote a culture of responsibility and conscious consumption, encouraging students and staff to contribute to a more sustainable food ecosystem.