Low-waste school canteen

The research project ReFoWas (Reduce Food Waste) deals with reducing food waste in school canteens. It has developed practical ideas and materials, as well as campaigns for school canteens and classes. In a joint exchange between cooks, kitchen staff, school management and students, the aim is to try to calculate and reduce food waste.


ReFoWaste website

Useful links

Project press release

Zero-Waste Chef shares 15 ways to reduce waste in the school canteen

Eco-Active have information on school food waste on their website





'Why not work with your pupils to measure food waste and create a plan to reduce it. They may be encouraged to think more about what is on their plate!'

How is the project linked to climate change and sustainability?

According to the partial results of the ReFoWas study, around 25 percent of the meals prepared in school canteens ends up in the bin as food waste without being eaten. By reducing food waste, the environment is better protected and less resources wasted. Additionally, the money saved can be invested in higher-quality food such as regional, fair-trade or bio-certified food. This results in less waste, healthier and more sustainable school meals.

Who is involved?

School administrators, all types of catering providers, teachers, educational specialists, pupils, as well as school authorities and parents.

How are the participants involved?

Pupils spending the whole day in school must be able to have tasty, healthy and, above all, sustainable meals. Individual care includes breakfast, snacks, drinks and meals together. These enrich everyday school life as eating and drinking is an important activity.

Breakfast, snacks, drinks and shared lunchtime meals are part of the food provision for German pupils during a long school day. The ReFoWas research project helps implement a sustainable approach to food in school canteens through specific measures, evaluation frameworks and analysis tools. Educational films for kitchen staff, carers and school management were created and published on the project website.

In particular, kitchen staff are instructed to carry out various measurements, such as the production volume, the number of pupils catered for, the leftover servings and the food left on pupils' plates. This gives information of the the food waste in proportion. The kitchen staff can enter the measurements on the website (www.kuechenmonitor.de) and receive a specific and individual list of quantities to help staff avoid and reduce food waste. In addition to this tool, there are other tips on how students can be motivated to avoid leftover food and how the topic can be integrated into the lessons.

Key steps:

Here are some important things to consider when reducing food waste:

  1. Regular communication with the school community, everyone has to participate because everyone should be involved and motivated
  2. Exchange information between kitchen management and scullery about the waste generated
  3. Regularly measure food waste and document it
  4. Set target for the reduction of waste 
  5. Create incentives to avoid food waste by the documentation of set goals:
    - optimise meal planning
    - reduce peeling waste on fresh food
    - reduce packaging of processed food
  6. Check the size of dishes and the portioning or introduce buffet systems
  7. Communicate success and set 'new goals'