A close up of a pile of vegetable waste

Rescuing nutritious food from going to waste

When Sodexo launched its Wasteful to Tasteful initiative in October 2018, Sodexo Schools & Universities didn’t realise that within two short years our catering teams would have saved more than 15,000 kilograms of wonky fruit and vegetables from landfill. This rescued produce is being using to create delicious dishes that fill the bellies of school pupils across the UK.

As part of our work to support our overarching social values, Sodexo Schools & Universities works alongside customers, clients and suppliers to make a tangible difference to the environment. One way we have been doing this is by actively reducing food waste at schools throughout the region.
We’re fighting the food waste battle

Food waste is one of our biggest collective challenges, especially as a business that provides catering services at more than 600 educational institutions across the UK and Ireland. According to Sodexo external partner WRAP, the UK wasted more than 9.5 million tonnes of food in 2018, with 70% being edible for humans to eat.

This volume of wasted food is worth more than £19 billion a year and potentially creates 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. (source) In fact, did you know that over 30% of UK crops never leave the farm?

Through Sodexo's Wasteful to Tasteful programme, Schools & Universities is working at source to rescue food waste from going to landfill, and instead are supplying nutritious food to school pupils made from wonky fruit and vegetables.

Wasteful to Tasteful fights back

Wasteful to Tasteful brings together Sodexo, Waste Knot, an organisation committed to connecting businesses with surplus food, and Ferry Fast, a co-operative of farmers in Worcestershire, to create an industry-leading initiative.

The initiative rescues British Grade B fruit and vegetables, which would otherwise be sent to landfill or left to rot, transforming them into fresh plant-based dishes good for people and the planet.

In Sodexo Schools & Universities specifically, 30 schools have been receiving weekly boxes of wonky fruit (5kg per box) and vegetables (15kg per box) since October 2018. The produce supplements the schools’ usual deliveries of fresh fruit and veg using recycled banana boxes as packaging reducing even more waste from our catering operations.

The contents of the boxes change with the season encouraging our chefs and catering teams to get creative. Recipe cards have been created for teams as inspiration, but we continue to be amazed by the dishes they create using wonky produce. The produce includes:

  • Beetroots
  • Squash
  • Courgettes
  • Red onions
  • Turnips
  • Pumpkin
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Plums

Our participation in Wasteful to Tasteful helps raise awareness of food provenance and the issue of food waste among young people, while encouraging pupils to choose the nutritious plant-based meals that celebrate rescued fruit and vegetables.

As examples, at Oasis Academy Coulsdon, Sodexo chefs regularly feature a delicious ratatouille on their menu using wonky beets, squash, courgettes and red onions. The catering team promote their Wasteful to Tasteful involvement and the dishes rescued ingredients by displaying informative posters on the food counters at lunchtime to attract and engage the school’s pupils.

Oasis Academy Mayfield’s team have been known to make a beetroot muffin or two, as well as pumpkin and coriander soup with their wonky produce.

Oasis Academy Coulsdon (left) and Oasis Academy Mayfield (right) Wastrful to Tasteful examples

Feedback from our on-site teams has been positive with many finding pupils to be fascinated by the concept and amused by the appearance of the wonky food.

Making a wonky difference

So far, Sodexo Schools & Universities has saved more than 15,000 kilograms of fruit and vegetables from going to landfill – in total, Sodexo has saved over 300 tonnes.

Reducing waste is one of our key priorities, reflected in our Better Tomorrow commitments. This work also contributes towards our goal to reduce food and drink waste by 20% in the UK, forming part of our agreement with WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment 2025 and our recent commitment to WRAP’s Food Waste Reduction Roadmap.

If you'd like to learn more about how Sodexo's services can support your organisation's environmental goals, please click here to complete an enquiry form.