THE University of Chester’s catering team have earned national recognition after their Garden 2 Table initiative saw them claim the Sustainability Award from The University Caterers Organisation Ltd (TUCO).
The project aimed to reduce food waste, raise awareness of food sustainability with students and work closely with the grounds and gardens team to ensure students understand where their food comes from. It follows a wider campaign throughout the University which has seen sustainability goals implemented across the institution over the past seven years.
The initial motivation for Garden 2 Table came from being able to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers in the borders and greenhouses on the University’s premises and replace the previously grown annual flowers.
The catering and grounds and gardens teams worked together to make full use of the site, growing food for catering outlets and selling produce in the community fridge in the Sustainability Shop on the Exon Park site.
Using home-grown fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices, the Catering team creates menus for its sites, ensuring that meals for students are healthy and locally grown, reducing the food mileage of the food on offer and keeping food waste low.
Abundant food is donated to the Greenway Grocer, a sustainable bike service that collects fruit and vegetables to be given away in the local community.
Any food not used in catering outlets becomes part of the team’s Too-Good-to-Throw scheme, where leftover food from the catering outlets is available for customers to buy as a takeaway meal.
The grounds and gardens team aims to increase the students’ understanding of food provenance through activities such as the student fruit picking trail through the University’s fruit orchards and student sessions on the allotment.
Head Chef, Chris Murphy, offers cooking sessions during Induction Week on healthy, sustainable cooking practices and cutting food waste.
The new onsite beehives are producing honey and jams, and chutneys are also being made from the home-grown produce. Menus also promote a large number of plant-based dishes.
The grounds and gardens team sells spider plants that students can use to personalise their rooms. And flowers, plants and bulbs are sold in the Sustainability Shop, which also stocks pasta, rice and other items that the University has been able to buy in bulk and students can buy using their own containers.
A keep cup scheme, where customers are given a reusable cup for £2, has also saved more than 73,000 takeaway cups from being thrown away since the scheme was launched.
Ian White, Domestic Bursar and Executive Director of the University of Chester’s Hospitality and Residential Services, said: “I am so proud of everyone who has worked together on our sustainability projects.
“Our innovative decision to introduce our Garden 2 Table sustainability initiative at all levels and make sure that the student community is fully involved has already started to produce tangible results in waste, cost and carbon footprint reduction that will have even more positive benefits in the years to come.
“Our collaborative approach between different University departments has proved that we can achieve our goals in a truly impressive way and has made sustainability part of students’ experience from their first day at the University of Chester.”
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