Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Good Food Policy

The University of Edinburgh takes a whole-institution approach to food and its connection to health and sustainability.

SRS Good Food green icon, knife and fork

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.

The University’s Good Food Policy sets out our ambitions in five key areas: sourcing, provision, practice, research, learning and teaching and leadership and culture. 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.

Read our Good Food Policy

Download the Good Food Policy below.

Recent achievements

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.

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.

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.

The University’s coffee cup levy was also shortlisted in the Reduce, Re-use, Recycle category of the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s 2019 Food Made Good Awards.

Positive actions we have taken to date include:

  • Introducing a 30p levy on single-use coffee cups in all University cafés and food outlets in August 2018, leading to a 46% reduction in disposable coffee cup purchases up to March 2020 

  • Increasing the number and variety of plant-based and vegetarian items in ACE-run outlets 

  • Increasing the number of fairly traded and local ingredients and products we source 

  • ACE have been awarded a two-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association 

  • Adopting the Too Good To Go food waste-prevention app to sell surplus food from University cafes that would otherwise go to waste 

  • Partnering with a Scottish company to recycle coffee grounds from University cafes into compost to be used by our Landscape team 

  • Training roughly 150 students per year to cook healthy meals from scratch at the Pollock Halls Cook School, run by University chefs 

  • Donating to a community group working to improve food education and access to sustainable food in Edinburgh

  • Offering living labs research opportunities for students 

Find out more about the University’s sustainable catering practices and good food initiatives:

2020/21 priorities

Each year we introduce new improvements that become part of our mainstream practices.

Some of our priorities for this year are:

  • Expanding our range of vegetarian and plant-based options, and ensuring that at least 50% of meal options in our outlets continue to be veggie or plant-based
  • Establishing a Good Food Working Group to oversee the implementation of our Good Food Policy
  • Discouraging disposable cup use via our disposable cup levy (currently paused due to Covid-19) and looking at other ways to remove single-use items from our catering service, in line with the University’s zero-waste ambition
  • Joining the Peas Please initiative, which aims to bring together farmers, retailers, fast food and restaurant chains, caterers, processors and government departments with a common goal of making it easier for everyone to eat veg (announced January 2021)
  • Implementing the University’s Palm Oil Policy
  • Introducing new Point of Sale materials to better highlight fair trade and sustainable options in our cafes
  • Continuing to offer opportunities for staff and students to learn about sustainable food

The Department for Accommodation, Catering and Events manages the University’s catering service. 


Find out more about Accommodation, Catering and Events practices

Get advice about Good Food for students