Many organizations provide food for their employees, visitors, students, patients, etc., either independently or through an external service provider. As a purchaser, you have a significant influence on the environmental impact of this food. This impact can be influenced by both the choice of products offered and by reducing food waste. Considering the social aspect of this product group is also important. Offer producers fair prices and consider employing individuals with barriers to the job market. Additionally, the food offering can serve as a means to raise awareness among consumers about sustainable and healthy nutrition.
If you intend to make your current food offering more circular, effective communication is crucial. The saying "the way to a person's heart is through their stomach" certainly applies here. Through effective communication, people can be informed and inspired to choose sustainable and healthy food options.
Circular food strategies
An important distinction relates to:
When purchasing food products: pay attention to portion sizes, quantities, and expiration dates.
When procuring services: request measures to prevent food waste, measure, report, and take corrective actions.
An essential step in reducing food waste is to measure it. Collect data to map the current food waste and critically review the available data. Distinguish between waste during preparation, spoiled food, and leftovers. This information forms the basis for an action plan.
The first step is prevention: try to align the quantity of purchases with actual consumption as much as possible. If there is still food left, consider how to use it in a high-value way. Think of processing leftovers into dishes for the next day, giving away prepared meals to customers or staff, using platforms like "Too Good To Go," or other alternative systems. You can also use the food as animal feed. This way, you prevent food from being reduced to waste. Referring to the Guideline: Food Waste in Government Organizations can be helpful. This guideline includes clauses that you can include in your service contracts.
Reduce food waste: refer to regulations regarding single-use packaging, especially for sandwiches, salads, etc., that you offer. Emphasize that this mainly concerns single-use packaging. More information on this can be found on the product group page. Take into account specific guidelines for packaging products that come into contact with food.
Energy, water, and gas consumption: choose local and seasonal products where possible, as production and transportation of products can result in significant differences in consumption. Also, pay attention to how products are processed and stored after delivery, as this also affects consumption. Keep in mind that the law on public procurement does not prefer local suppliers.
Protein shift: strive for a better balance between animal, plant, and microbial protein sources in your offering. This has a positive impact on both the environment and human health.
Make clear agreements with your supplier regarding the shelf life of products. Opt for products with a longer shelf life to minimize food waste. Optimize storage methods to ensure that you waste as little food as possible. For example, if you order 100 kg of fries and you are certain that you will sell at least 50 kg on that day, consider choosing food that will soon expire for that 50 kg. Consider using canned products instead of fresh products, as canned products generally have a longer shelf life. This can help reduce food waste.
Take into account the composition of the products you procure and avoid ingredients or products with a significant negative environmental impact. Labels such as MSC, ASC, RSPO, and organic labels can help you make sustainable choices.
Stimulate circular business models by exploring the possibility of collaborating with a company that can use your food preparation waste as a raw material. For example, consider using orange peels to create soap aromas or growing mushrooms on coffee grounds. This can contribute to a circular approach to food production and waste reduction.
Microbial digestion or composting: Separate the waste types at collection and ensure that they are is processed to a high standard. Avoid burning and landfill as much as possible.
Contractual agreements for recycling: used or spoiled fats and oils should be collected by a specialised processor or taken a recycling center.
Reducing toxicity: Favour products from sustainable or organic farming, fishing and catlle breeding.
Stimulate circular revenue models: look for symbiosis with suppliers who use your food waste or recycled material as a raw materials.
Not all labels have the same reliability and relevance. It is important to critically assess which labels you specifically request and whether they align well with the requirements of the contract. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that there are enough products available on the market that meet the requested labels. Demonstrating that equivalent products with similar sustainability features can be accepted is also important. In 2019, the federal government conducted an assessment of various certifications in the context of public procurement regulations.