Food Waste

Victoria Park Primary School: Placing pupils at the heart of sustainability

By Katie Powell

As part of the Going for Gold campaign Victoria Park Primary School in Bedminster participated in a research programme to understand food waste patterns at the school, which are being used to develop food waste reduction initiatives for other schools around Bristol. Katie Powell, Junior Consultant at Resource Futures, has written about their experience.

Victoria Park Primary School in Bedminster works to nurture and inspire their pupils to ensure they achieve academically, socially and personally in the future, using core values of co-operation, respect, determination, gratitude, honesty and kindness in everything they do. As part of the Going for Gold campaign, the school participated in a research programme to understand why plate waste occurs. This programme has helped to develop successful food waste reduction initiatives relevant for schools across Bristol, soon to be made available alongside supporting resources in the Going for Gold Toolkit for Schools.

In 2018, Victoria Park Primary School was awarded the TES Sustainable School Award, which celebrates the efforts and achievements of schools aiming to empower young generations to emerge as environmental citizens. By placing pupils at the heart of sustainability, students help develop ideas on being environmentally friendly while learning important life skills, such as presentation skills and budgeting. Committed not only to a few activities that make it possible to claim sustainability awareness and practice, as winners Victoria Park Primary School have taken a ‘whole-school’ approach. This has included flexible activities spanning across the wider school community in planning and evaluating success, embedding sustainability at the very core of the curriculum.

Victoria Park Primary’s decision to participate in the Going for Gold research programme was triggered by a wide range of school staff and children highlighting food waste as a sustainability issue which could be tackled in the school. The programme was something tangible that the children could get involved in and see the impact of their actions, particularly how working together can enact positive change at a local level.

Plate waste is a significant reason for food waste in schools. Some organisations have a food waste recycling collection to divert food waste from landfill. But this doesn’t tackle the financial and environmental impacts of growing and producing food that is not being eaten.

School activities

At Victoria Park Primary School, the teachers started with pupil engagement activities which involved visits from Bristol Waste Company and Sustainable Sidekicks-founder Livvy Drake who piloted a school assembly about the Going for Gold campaign. Following the assembly, pupils worked in groups to roleplay ways to avoid food waste using the eco-action Top Trump food waste cards (quote BRISTOL for a 10% discount). The pupils also made posters which were shared with parents in a school email newsletter.

Pupils were also involved with monitoring lunchtime food waste, tallying the food types as staff weighed the waste from each lunchtime offering. By monitoring the food being thrown away they identified multiple factors which were potentially impacting the amount of food pupils ate.

Creating positive change

The school is now using key learnings from the research to trial a number of new interventions this autumn:

  • Their ‘Dining Hall Helpers’ scheme involves students encouraging their peers to eat and enjoy their lunch to the full, as well as being generally helpful, using stickers as positive reinforcement around finishing their meals.
  • Dining hall staff also have good relationships with the children and can recognise those regularly not eating enough, allowing them to work with the children individually to understand the importance of eating a good lunch.
  • A Father’s Day lunch (in which dads came in to school and ate with the children, during which many more meals were served and food waste was greatly reduced) provided evidence that sitting with children, acting as role models and making a social event of mealtimes has a massive impact on attitudes to food and food waste. Inspired by this, teachers and staff will be encouraged to eat with the children in the lunch hall more regularly, to have conversations, model mealtime behaviours and encourage pupils to finish their lunch rather than rush outside to play.
  • The Green Team (comprising children from Years 3-6 and an amazing group of passionate children), meet after school to work on improving sustainability across their community. They are creating and will be delivering a whole school assembly about food waste and are also creating lessons that they will deliver in every class about the food waste research programme.
  • Food education activities will also continue, including highlighting where food comes from with provenance boards, cooking sessions and kitchen tours. Fundamental to all of this is the schools’ amazing cook who is able to tweak menus to encourage uptake of less popular dishes – swapping mash for extra sliced potatoes in chicken pie or breaded fish for fish fingers – all while remaining within recommended nutritional guidelines.
Photo by TES

Congratulations to the team at Victoria Park Primary School, an inspirational example for schools across the city!

Want to take action in your school?

If you have been inspired by these experiences, we’d love to hear from you. Tell us about the actions you are already taking or plan to take on the Going for Gold website, or email us if you have any questions about what you could be doing. We are currently developing a toolkit (which will include Livvy’s assembly mentioned above) to assist schools to take part in the campaign, so watch this space or get in touch if you would like us to send this to you!

Join the conversation

So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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