Food Waste

Bristol Universities leading the way on a more sustainable food future

By Ramona Andrews

Both the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England (UWE) have committed to positive actions to improve the sustainability of food within their institutions, with pledges including creating a Sustainable Food Plan for 2021 and designating food courts to being single-use free.

The two Bristol universities have both engaged with the Bristol Bites Back Better campaign, which calls on the city’s organisations and individuals to create a more sustainable food system for the city – and one that represents all voices of those living in Bristol.

University of West of England are currently finalising a Sustainable Food Plan, which is one of a number of action plans underlying UWE’s new sustainability commitments, including to be net-zero by 2030. The Sustainable Food Plan is set to be published in February 2021. Alongside this they are launching a pilot food waste campaign aimed at students in residences, which will coincide with WRAP’s food waste awareness week and will ensure students understand the impact of food waste and the importance of reducing it. The pilot will inform a wider campaign being developed for September, when the new intake of students will arrive. Their 2020 initiative of bringing in local Bristol food businesses (who use regional producers) onto campus to ensure students and staff can spend their money locally will also continue and expand through 2021.

Kristian Fernandez-Mitchell, Business Improvement Manager, Hospitality Services, at UWE, says: “We recognise that as a significant institution here in the city we have a responsibility to look at ways to ‘do better’ when it comes to food. Our conversations with the Bristol Bites Back Better team, and access to resources and suggested actions on their website have helped inform our thinking, as has the continued internal conversations we have about how we interrelate with food and the city. We look forward to being able to share the details of our Sustainable Food Plan a little later in the year!”

At the University of Bristol, the doors to a brand-new food court in Senate House, which will be entirely single-use plastic-free, supporting their University-wide Plastic Action Plan initiative will soon be opened. They will also be opening a zero-waste section of the shop located at the Stoke Bishop residents’ bus hub in Stoke Bishop. The University of Bristol has developed its long standing ‘Ethical and Sustainability Policy’ into a new Sustainable Food Action Plan launching in January 2021. This plan builds on the initiatives already in place, such as: re-purposing bi-product food waste like banana skins and coffee grounds; nurturing a meat-free culture in catered halls of residence and removing beef from all menus served in the Source Café retail outlets. In February 2021 a student-led Sustainability Month is planned, showcasing the Bristol Bites Back Better campaign along with WRAP’s Food Waste Week in early March.

Caroline Wynn, Head of Catering, at the University of Bristol, says: “The University has long supported sustainable food initiatives in the city and became a Going for Gold Champion in late 2019, recognising this work by staff and students. Students in Bristol make up a significant proportion of the city, so the actions we take as a university and student body can make a real tangible difference. We will be keenly measuring the impact of our single-use food court, as well as the zero-waste section of our Hiatt Baker shop. In fact, as a catering department, we are already providing on-campus food consumption data for an interdisciplinary study linking four faculties (veterinary/biology/psychology/policy) which is funded by Cabot Institute for the Environment. The project estimates environmental and health costs associated with the food UoB serves and based on this information investigates how to induce changes in food consumption patterns to facilitate more sustainable and healthier lifestyles amongst staff and students. We are very excited to see the project develop and looking forward to the results supporting our Food Action Plan in the future.

As a university we are keen to go further and conversations are already in the diary to discuss what other actions we can take, acknowledging that the time to act is now if we want to protect our environment and ensure the future sustainability of our city.”

Joy Carey, director of Bristol Food Network and coordinator of Bristol Bites Back Better, says: “The actions already taken by the universities in the past few years and those planned for 2021 show real determination to do better. As big organisations, they are demonstrating how positive change can be made and we are excited to engage the student population further in the coming weeks and months as they too will be a key part of creating a better, fairer, and more sustainable food system for our city. We hope other organisations will look to this and consider how they could engage with the campaign and make positive changes for our collective future.”

To find out more about the Bristol Bites Back Better campaign and to access resources to prompt you or your organisation to ‘do better’, visit:

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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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