Food waste is becoming a growing problem across the UK. Almost 7m tonnes of food is wasted by UK households every year – that’s more than 30 per cent of the total food purchased across the country. Food waste can have severe environmental and economic consequences, so it’s vital that we start teaching pupils about this issue from their school desks.
Here are a few ways you can encourage your students to cut food waste.
Make them aware of the environmental background – If you are asking your pupils to cut their food waste, you need to tell them why. Depending on the age of your students, you may want to present the dangers in a practical, engaging way. Show them the life cycle of a banana, for instance. While they are sitting at their school desk, you can show images of how banana plantations are created, the huge amount of work and resources that go into cultivating each bunch, and the long distance they have to travel to get to our supermarket shelves. This may help to explain the environmental value of everyday items that can be taken for granted.
Explain ‘ripe vs rot’ – A lot of food waste occurs because households can’t tell the difference between ripeness and rot. To take the example of the banana again – bananas can safely be eaten even after they have turned brown. Likewise, fridge staples such as butter, yogurt and chutneys can also be consumed after the ‘best before’ date. Teach your pupils how to identify rot (e.g. by looking for mould or signs of curdling) and encourage them to keep ripe or slightly over-ripe food for longer.
Share recipes – Leftover food and over-ripe food can be used to create some delicious meals. For instance, stale bread can be roasted to make croutons, or crumbled to make breadcrumbs, and that overripe banana adds a natural sweetness to pancakes, muffins or banana bread. Get your pupils to come up with some recipes at their school desk and encourage them to think more creatively about the food they eat.
Compost – And finally, if your students have any food waste that cannot be eaten or repurposed, teach them how to turn it into compost. Good quality compost can be used to enrich the soil in their gardens or in a window box. This then allows your pupils to grow their own food using seeds – maybe even seeds which they have harvested from everyday food items such as peppers, cucumbers and squash. This will help them to learn about the lifecycle of their food, and should inspire a greater appreciation for their fruit and vegetables.