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Reduced climate impact of public-sector meals

In the region of three million meals are served every day in the Swedish public sector, in healthcare and welfare facilities and schools. RISE trains and coaches staff in public-sector organisations to reduce food waste and the climate impact of public-sector meals.

The project Knowledge Leap for Climate-smart Public-sector Meals trains staff in public-sector organisations to plan menus and prepare well-balanced meals that are both nutritionally balanced and tasty, while also adapted to reduce their climate footprint.

“We work through both regional initiatives and interregional collaboration to promote issues of skills provision, cooperation, research and innovation in the field of meals for schools and healthcare and welfare organisations,” says RISE project manager Maria Helmersson. “We have noticed an increased interest in how knowledge, planning and structure can create the preconditions for reduced food waste and climate impact from publicsector meals. Within the project, we work in a number of ways to support organisations. As well as a major investment in training in practical, plant-based cooking, we will be conducting workshops, providing coaching and developing communication support for organisations in order to inspire and improve understanding of what climate-smart food is and why a transition is needed.

Minimum food waste is vital

Keeping food waste to a minimum is vital to working with climate-smart menus in the public sector;

“For example, at the end of serving periods, this may be a matter of serving meals on smaller plates and bowls so that it looks pleasant ad appetising without the need to cook additional food. It may even involve making use of leftovers by using them in new dishes or for baking bread,” says Maria Helmersson.

“After training, we have reviewed menus and made changes that are better adapted to climate issues and that are suited to the diners in question; for example, by reducing the number of servings of rice in favour of wheatberry and potatoes,” explains Christin Hallner, assistant menu designer at Falköping Municipality. “The project has created commitment among kitchen staff, with many ideas generated and then implemented in the kitchen.”  

A healthy dialogue and communication with diners is also important.

“To encourage diners to try something new, you can place out tasting spoons and ask them to return for more instead of taking more than they can manage in one go. Popular dishes often lead to more waste,” explains Maria Helmersson.

Everyone can contribute

It is also apparent that there is a discussion in schools about the climate and environment, and the ability of everyone to influence our world in the right direction.

“Although we receive a great deal of positive feedback, it can feel like an uphill struggle for organisations if, for example, diners do not eat vegetarian meals. Change takes time and people need to get used to new flavours and dishes. We need to create curiosity while remaining aware that we need to take small steps,” concludes Maria Helmersson.

Published: 2019-06-18