Sustainable food practices at the University are themed around sourcing; provision; practice; learning, teaching and research; and leadership and culture.
Why is food important?
Food is essential for life. However, food is also becoming highly unsustainable and the food we eat has effects locally and globally, including:
- Overgrazing, deforestation, inefficient land use, freshwater depletion and contamination from agricultural runoff
- Health inequalities and poverty
- Greenhouse gas emissions
As a University, we recognise the need to keep food systems within environmental limits while supporting sustainable livelihoods.
Our vision is to run a responsible catering service that succeeds in providing healthy, sustainable and affordable food to the University community.
We also aim to support staff and student-led activities and research to enhance the University’s contribution to sustainable food systems.
Good Food at the University
Good Food is food and drink that is tasty, healthy, good for the environment and good for the people who make it.
The University’s Good Food Policy sets out our ambitions in five key areas. The policy was first approved in 2016 and then updated in 2020.
The Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS Department), the Department for Accommodation, Catering and Events (ACE) and the Procurement Office are jointly responsible for delivering the policy. We work together to put our commitments into practice and identify areas for further improvement.
The University will source food and drink that is produced to environmentally, socially and economically sustainable standards.
- We only use free range whole and liquid eggs from the UK
- All of the fish and seafood we serve is ranked between 1 and 3 by the Marine Conservation Society
- We source a range of organic products including seeds, grains and pulses
- 90% of beef we serve is Scottish
- 100% of our dairy milk is Scottish, plant milks available
- 70% of our meat is British and Red Tractor assured
- Pollock Halls menu changes every five weeks to reflect seasonality
- 100% of our tea, coffee and hot chocolate is Fairtrade Certified, as are bananas, sugar sticks and apple juice. The rice we use is fairly traded.
- Introduce new Point of Sale materials to better highlight fair trade and sustainable options in our cafes
- Implementing the University’s Palm Oil Policy, with a specific focus on resuming the Palm Oil supply chain review
The University will provide good value, high quality, healthy and sustainable food that meets dietary needs and enhances the wellbeing of staff and students.
- 100% of the fresh products we serve are prepared on-site (apart from packed meals when students miss a meal in halls)
- 50% of items in every University catering outlet are vegetarian or plant-based
- 200 drinking water points being installed or upgraded, and we have introduced measures to discourage bottled water purchases
- Development of Bloom Café in Kings Buildings (including: wider range of reusable items; good food graphics to educate staff and students; living plants to support wellbeing)
- In June 2021, the University’s catering team was rewarded with the “Peas Please – Rising Star” award for its drive to encourage the consumption of more fresh vegetables.
- Continue to expand our range of vegetarian and plant-based options, and ensure that at least 50% of meal options in our outlets continue to be veggie or plant-based
- Work towards achieving the University’s Peas Please pledge through:
- Increasing the number of vegetable side-serving options in hot food retail outlets;
- Increasing the number of vegetarian salad options in grab n' go cafe outlets;
- Increase the average weight of vegetables used per recipe from 90 grams to 150 grams per serving;
- Highlight and promote vegetables through Cook Along videos for at least 300 students who are self-isolating in self-catered halls
The University will act responsibly towards the environment and people employed in our supply chains, and we will influence our suppliers to do the same
- 100% of food waste in University outlets is recycled through anaerobic digestion
- Love Food Hate Waste campaign at Pollock Halls
- 62% drop in disposable coffee cup use compared to the baseline (2017-18) since 30p levy
- All of our cooking oil is collected separately and recycled into bio diesel
- Core catering staff have received training on issues like energy saving and nutrition
- 27,000 reusable cups sold or given away since 2011
- ACE staff are paid the living wage and no zero hour contracts
- We have consolidated orders into fewer vehicles and reduced our number of deliveries
- We removed plastic straws from our outlets, and cutlery is either re-useable of wooden
- ACE cafes use Too Good To Go app to sell discounted food that would otherwise go to waste
- Ongoing University campaign to encourage students to use reusable containers on campus
- Discouraging disposable cup use via our disposable cup levy and evaluate the success of reusable items at Bloom Cafe to establish the feasibility of rolling these out more widely, in line with the University’s zero-waste ambition
The University will support initiatives that deepen understanding, collaboration and action on Good Food
- We're supporting students to establish a permaculture garden at King's Buildings. Learnings from this pilot will inform future food growing plans across our campuses
- Students from the Business School's Carbon Accounting course worked with us on a project to calculate the University's carbon footprint from food
- Food Security and Sustainability Student Society
- Good Food continues in SRS training packages (Introduction to Sustainability, Taking Action for a Sustainable World, Carbon literacy)
- Student-led Planetary menus project: 18 new menus at UoE Catered Halls (Pollock) for four-week period focusing on Fairtrade, ethical eating and reducing food waste
- Masters Dissertation: Perceptions and positioning of to milk in retail settings
- Three Students as Change Agents (SACHA) projects on Fairtrade
Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security
Food Researchers in Edinburgh (FRIED)
- Offer opportunities for staff and students to learn about sustainable food. In part, providing access to relevant data on food, waste or reuse from catering outlets.
The University will seek to show leadership and adopt transparent and inclusive policies and practices that reflect the values of our staff and students.
- In November 2019, the University won an EAUC Green Gown Award in the Campus Health, Food and Drink category for our commitment to responsible catering and our whole institution approach. The Green Gown Awards recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges.
- Initiated Good Food Working Group
- ACE have been awarded a three-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association for work completed in 2020/21
- Taste Our Best Award for the University’s hotels and bistro
- Food for Life Served Here Bronze Award for Pollock Halls catered student accommodation
- Two star Fairtrade University Award (through to May 2020) and a member of Edinburgh’s Fair Trade City Group
- Since 2012, our coffee supplier has planted 1,155 trees (including an apple and plum orchard at Easter Bush) and distributed 154 seed kits with profits from University sales
- Global University Climate Forum: Review of the Good Food Policy
- In March 2021, the University was awarded its eighth bronze ‘Food For Life Served Here’ award for its consistent effort in providing healthy and sustainable menus.
- Arrange for the Good Food Working Group to meet three times per year to discuss actions taken and work together to overcome barriers
Find out more about progress on Good Food in our latest annual report
Find out more about Accommodation, Catering and Events' sustainability practices
Case studies and blog posts
Read case studies and blog posts tagged as 'Food'