The image is all too familiar: heaps of sandwiches going to waste after a lunch or buffet. Perfectly good food wasting away and eventually discarded. The issue was raised during the Waste-Free week.
The caterers on the campus and scientists working on food waste raised the issue, says Sanne Stroosnijder, programme manager of Food Loss and Waste Prevention. It was also their first live meeting. ‘Every caterer is addressing the issue in their own way, independent from the others. This is an issue that is best tackled together.’
Group catering or banqueting is catering that is ordered ahead, and that is precisely the issue, says Stroosnijder: everything that is ordered is delivered. ‘Whether it is lunches, snacks or diners, the amount ordered seldom matches the number of people that actually show up. Some cancel or decide to join online, leaving a lot of excess food wasted.’
Food that has been out for a few hours really must be discardedSanne Stroosnijder, programme manager Food Loss and Waste Prevention
Leftover food does not always get wasted. It may be distributed to others, or the meeting participants take it. Stroosnijder: ‘But this means doggy bags or trays must be available. And handing out leftover food is not always a solution; food that has been out for a few hours really must be discarded. Regulations for food safety apply.’
The best solution is to prevent ordering too much. In practice, this calls for flexibility in the ordering process. ‘You should be able to cancel part of the order two days beforehand if the expected number of guests drops from 100 to 80. But that means you run into issues with suppliers and signed contracts.’
Mapping the entire process from ordering to consuming is the first step. Stroosnijder: ‘And every step in between. Who is involved, and can this process be standardised for all caterers? That is our point of departure. WUR really aims to address this issue.’