In a world where a child dies from hunger every 3.6 seconds, it’s crucial that we all do our part to minimise our individual waste. To get a further insight into how Bekynton, the college’s main dining hall, ensures sustainability, Jed and I sat down with the Assistant Catering Director of Bekynton, Richard Hall (right), and Head Chef, James Bourn (left), to further inquire about how waste in Bekynton, and their future plans.

How do you manage different types of food waste in your kitchen?

We have a comprehensive approach to food waste. Production waste, like vegetable scraps, is composted. Overproduced items are either consumed by staff or reused if safe; otherwise, they go to the Eton hounds. Our biggest waste source comes from plates; in feeding 700 people, on some days we generate enough food waste for another 50 meals. This plate waste is generated from people serving themselves more food than they eat, plus any rinds and bones. To combat this, we are in the process of creating a system that rewards sustainable behaviour.

You mentioned reusing foods if they are safe; what preservation methods do you use for food?

We prioritise food safety by quickly cooling down leftover food using a blast chiller. This allows us to serve it the next day or evening while maintaining safe temperatures and adhering to food safety guidelines.

How do you source sustainable ingredients for your kitchen?

We prioritise sustainability in ingredient sourcing through our partnership with Sodexo. All our fish is MSC certified, meat is Red Tractor certified, eggs are RSPCA approved, and halal meat is Red Tractor halal certified, something very difficult to do. Additionally, we’ve reduced pastry portions to one per person to further prevent waste.

How do you ensure energy efficiency in your kitchen?

All our equipment is less than 10 years old, and our building operates at maximum energy efficiency. We use the latest, energy-efficient equipment and run at full capacity seven days a week. Water is collected in tanks on the roof, and we are currently working on future sustainable electrical projects to further enhance energy efficiency.

Do you plan to give boys more choice in their meals?

Absolutely, we are actively working on ways to offer boys a broader range of meal choices. One leading idea at the moment is the development of a Bekynton app. The aim of this is to make the dining experience more accessible to students. We understand the importance of engaging with preferences and actively responding to their feedback. We try to conduct food surveys often to further understand their preferences. Our goal is not only to expand the choices available but also to create a dining experience that empowers boys to shape their meal options. By actively involving them in this process, we can create a more inclusive and popular menu for everyone.

Do efforts to incorporate plant-based foods into the main menu reduce waste or contribute to more?

We are actively introducing more plant-based options to our menu. While some have gained popularity, it’s still a relatively new venture. We’ve begun an increase in vegetable volume within meat dishes, such as a shift to a 60% meat to 40% vegetable rate in the bolognaise, a significant change from the previous 100% meat composition. Additionally, we’ve integrated a lot more vegetables into wet meat dishes, and our vegan burgers have proven to be quite popular. While there’s a wide variety of vegan products available, they tend to be more expensive. Nonetheless, we have noticed people are increasingly open to trying vegan and vegetarian options, contributing positively to our sustainability efforts, and making the cost of vegan and vegetarian food worth it.

Is there less waste on house choice nights, or do boys tend to get more food than they can eat?

House choice nights are incredibly popular, and the boys tend to eat more, resulting in minimal food left on the counters. It’s challenging to compare to normal meals due to the enthusiastic consumption during these events. It’s also not a nutritious option to offer burgers and chips every day, so we take pride in offering a range of food weekly and hope to minimise waste by taking on feedback.

What are your future plans for waste control?

We plan to periodically assess plate waste and explore incentives to further reduce waste. Our aim is to continually improve our waste management practices and promote sustainable behaviour through a reward system.

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