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Schools

Conscious choices for conscious minds

Does making the right choice with your food mean having to make difficult decisions? At Sodexo Schools & Universities, we don’t think so. We are working hard to offer pupils and students the freedom to make conscious choices with their food which are better for them, and the planet.

To celebrate Veganuary in 2020, Sodexo Schools & Universities published insight into the reasons why this global movement was becoming increasingly more popular amongst current primary school pupils, otherwise known as Generation Z.

Factors like health, climate change and animal welfare all play their part in our young customers’ decision to switch to a plant-based diet, or even the simple change to meat-free days.

However, as a food service provider we understand we not only have to support our customers’ freedom to make these conscious choices, but also have a responsibility to encourage them to make the right choices that can potentially be better for their health, wellbeing and the environment.

In 2021 we’re sharing the ways Schools & Universities have been working to support our customers freedom to choose better, even in a year where making the right decision with food may have been made more difficult.

Serving conscious minds

Through 50 years of experience, and the creation of both extensive internal and external research, Sodexo knows that today’s young people are more environmentally conscious and food-adventurous than previous generations.

High profile events such as Veganuary have only helped to bolster the demand for plant-based options on food menus, especially during the internet age where searches for veganism have increased seven-fold between 2014 and 2019 according to Google trends.

In 2020, Veganuary continued its exponential growth with more than 400,000 registering to the official Veganuary pledge – a 60% increase on the previous year.

We’re committed to minimising our environmental impact, encouraging sustainable diets and promoting healthy lifestyles, by offering conscious food for ever growing conscious minds.

Keeping up momentum in schools

With Veganuary trending around the world every January, pupils expect the chance to go meat-free even at school. In response to this growing food trend, we introduced plant-based dishes to primary and secondary school pupils in 2018 through our Food & Co offer.

Food & Co was developed after conducting our own research into what under-18s want to eat, which unsurprisingly includes healthier options and the chance to try new foods.

New foods come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, especially when the ingredients in a dish are of the wonky variety. In a recent publication on our website, we announced that 30 of the schools where Sodexo operates have rescued more than 15,000 kilograms of grade B veg through our Wasteful to Tasteful scheme.

The initiative has been launched in schools to encourage pupils to try more vegetables as part of a balanced and health diet, whilst supporting our food waste reduction goals – Wasteful to Tasteful successfully saves vegetables from going to landfill and contributing to global carbon emissions.

On the rise in universities

Offering conscious choices doesn’t stop with the under-18s, with university students also reaching for the Veganuary flag to ditch animal products for environmental and health reasons. 

Even in a year with safety in the spotlight our recent report, Essential student insights for university leaders, published with support from external partner YouthSight, highlights that sustainability continues to be a top priority for students even with the impact of Covid-19.

An example non-vegan food offer at Northumbria UniversityUnfortunately, Covid-19 has impacted the way we’ve had to adapt to continue supporting the students under our care in accommodation, especially those having to self-isolate.

At Northumbria University in response to this change in circumstances, our Student Living by Sodexo team were quick to act. By working with the client and Sodexo’s concierge service, Circles, the on-site team is now able to offer a personalised service to the 26,000 students attending Northumbria University, but more importantly, provide all of them access to fresh food if self-isolating for two-weeks.

When the 2020 academic year started, Student Living and Circles were able to quickly deliver almost 2,000 food parcels to students, ensuring that a range of food options were readily available including vegan, vegetarian and gluten free.

When exploring the food parcel options available to us, we were mindful of the products they contained. We ultimately decided to offer four different options that covered a variety of different needs, but also supported student’s ability to be flexible and make conscious and healthy decisions providing example menus, support information and clear contact information.

Tom Martin, Head of Residency Living, Schools & Universities, Sodexo UK & Ireland

4% of the student food parcels delivered so far have been vegan, with another 16% being vegetarian. This means exactly one in 5 of the students using this new service chose a more sustainable option.

According to The Vegan Society, approximately 1.16% of the UK population is vegan – this is around 600,000 people. (source) The increase in vegan food parcels purchased at the University of Northumbria aligns to publications like this that report young people, and even more so students, are more likely be vegan or try veganism.

The future of conscious choices

Sodexo Schools & Universities continues to take quick steps in response to this growing demand but is also investing in future need. One example is Klimato – new technology that shows our customers exactly how much carbon emissions their food generates; from farm to fork.

By using the ISO-certified Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, Klimato provides data on how much the food you eat is affecting the climate. By displaying this information to our customers in three levels – low, medium and high – we hope that those we serve will be encouraged to make an informed and conscious choice that benefits them and the planet.

The system is already being used at Sodexo restaurants in Sweden and has seen a per meal drop of 15% of carbon emissions impact after just four months.

Schools & Universities will be the first to trial Klimato for Sodexo UK & Ireland, starting at two schools in the beginning of this year. The purpose of these Schools & Universities’ trials is to see the future roll out of the Klimato initiative across our wider Sodexo region.

Creating a Better Tomorrow today

The food industry currently contributes 25% of all greenhouse gases that are emitted globally.

Through our global Better Tomorrow 2025 strategy we are determined to reduce the contributions made by our operations. Better Tomorrow 2025 brings coherence to our business actions, focusing on improving quality of life through nine global commitments.

As part of these promises to the planet, our people, places and partners, Sodexo has agreed to globally reduce our carbon emissions by 34% and play our part to reach the United Nation’s food waste goals.

If you'd like to hear more about Sodexo’s innovative approach to plant-based living, food waste reduction and future sustainably for schools and universities, click here to complete an enquiry form.

January 28, 2021

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