FAO canteen’s new anti-food waste measures

Fri, 16/08/13

The dust may be starting to settle after all the excitement of World Environment Day, but at FAO Headquarters in Rome long-term measures to reduce food waste are already showing promising results.

In recent months FAO has been measuring its food waste. Early measurements indicate that between April 2013 and June 2013 total daily waste from the cafeteria has reduced by 33% from an average of 225 kilograms to 150 kilograms per day.
FAO is tracking the amount of food waste generated during preparation (vegetable peelings, packaging etc.) including how much food is prepared but goes unsold, and how much un-eaten food is disposed off at the end of each meal.
This has all been made possible as the result of the new procurement practices which were used to contract a new supplier to feed the 1000 or so staff who pass through the main FAO canteen, restaurant and bars each day. In a change from previous tenders the new process included corporate environmental and social responsibility requirements, ensuring that the winning company would be sustainability minded.
The revised tender documents included clauses that meant the winning bid would include anti-food waste measures as part of the day-to-day work. FAO was able to do this by joining forces with the other Rome based UN agencies - WFP and IFAD - thereby increasing their buying power.
Mitchell Hall, Corporate Environmental Responsibility Consultant at FAO explains:
By taking care to sort and measure, we’ve succeeded in quickly identifying some easy ways to reduce food waste, like ensuring that we focus on producing the food choices that are the best sellers and ensuring that portion sizes correspond to individual appetites. By embedding these types of principles within the procurement process, we can ensure that food waste reduction sits at the heart of our dining services.”
So what are some of the new measures that have contributed to the reduction in food waste?
  • Accounting has shown up where food isn’t being eaten, so canteen staff can ensure they’re catering according to what’s popular.
  • Portion sizes have been reduced based on contractual agreements (by grams) although larger quantities are given where an individual specifically asks for more.
  • Plastic waste has been significantly reduced though the introduction of water dispensers for cold, still, sparking and tap water. Staff and visitors are encouraged to use the metal cutlery, drinking glasses, or bio-cups (compostable) provided in the dining areas.
  • Drinking fountains dispense juice and organic cola, cutting down the need for aluminum cans.
  • Fair trade tea and coffee are now available in some bars/cafes.
  • In June 2013 a 1-hour training session was given on effective waste management to all contractor staff at the Headquarters. FAO employs a waste differentiation monitor to spot any erroneous waste. If it’s not sorted correctly, then it’s refused and sent back to be resorted. This person also measures the amounts of waste by category being generated throughout all of the Headquarters.
  • ‘Km 0 foods’ (locally produced ingredients which minimize transportation), are clearly labeled to tempt people towards more environmentally friendly food choices.
  • Canteen staff closely monitors the weather forecast, as up to a quarter of FAO diners eat outside the premises on sunny days. Having calculated a potential visit basis for the next day, they only prepares food for about three quarters of these expected guests, and are able to add portions as they monitor consumption.
  • For some time now FAO has been treating its organic waste by removing the water content through a food centrifuge. This reduces its weight and improves the efficiency of transporting it away for disposal.  
This follows an address made by FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva in October 2012 when he appealed to international food communities to join together to eradicate hunger by, amongst other measures, eliminating food losses and waste (FAO Save Food Initiative). The FAO procurement, facilities, and canteen services took his message to heart and have worked hard to implement subsequent actions. These groups continue to work with representatives from the Save Food Initiative towards further improvements.
The movement is not all top-down though. During the second part of 2012, a grassroots group formed within FAO HQ that wished to incorporate more sustainable food products into the dining areas of the Headquarters. Through collaboration with this group and among the Rome-based agencies, the procurement and implementation of more sustainable dining and catering has shown great promise so far. As more of these activities continue on and are closely monitored, FAO looks forward to seeing further success in the future.
For information on FAO’s global initiative on food losses and waste reduction visit http://www.fao.org/save-food/