University of Otago researchers are aiming to contribute to a national effort to cut food waste in the aged care sector by 10% when they undertake New Zealand’s first sector-wide food waste reduction programme.
The Government has granted $230,000 towards a project, led by Food Waste Innovation Otago, in collaboration with the Retirement Villages Association, and providers Arvida and Bupa.
Research lead Professor Miranda Mirosa, of the Department of Food Science, says food waste in retirement communities and aged care facilities is largely unknown. However, in Australia it is estimated that around 11% of the sector’s landfill waste is food.
“There is currently no sector-wide data on it, but we do know about 30 million lunches and dinners are made in commercial kitchens in the industry each year, which provides plenty of scope to reduce waste – from ordering, to preparation and leftovers,” said Professor Mirosa.
“By identifying a baseline of how much food waste is produced, and changing some existing practices, we can ultimately reduce the amount of waste being generated and sent to landfill,” she said.
The programme follows a successful pilot project developed by Food Waste Innovation and Arvida which ran last year.
Aged care providers and operators will have the chance to join the three-year programme when it gets underway in mid to late 2023.
Three stages will be covered: sector engagement, food waste audits and interviews; designing and testing different approaches to reducing food waste; and implementing the most effective interventions sector-wide.
“We expect the project will help reduce food waste in the retirement care sector by as much as 10 per cent, while increasing knowledge and understanding of the quantity and causes of food waste in New Zealand, and different ways we can tackle the problem,” Professor Mirosa says.
The researchers believe their findings and interventions will be of use in other settings such as hospitals, hospice, and tertiary education colleges, as they have similar food service models.
Food waste has negative environmental, social, and economic impacts through wasting of resources, greenhouse gas emissions, missed opportunities to achieve food security, and the economic cost to producers, retailers and consumers.