The site for resources on food and environment
The aim of this Tuckshop Toolbox section is to provide you with the information that is needed to make healthy and environmentally friendly food choices. Because our partners share high level expertise in nutrition, we are able to ensure that the information provided is both scientifically credible and nutritionally sound.
This information has been provided in partnership between the Queensland Association of School Tuckshops (QAST), Nutrition Promotion Unit (Metro South Health Service District, Queensland Health) and Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
Schools and Tuckshops
How to make your school green
There are many small tasks and activities that can be undertaken to help turn your school green and environmentally friendly. These range from recycling to composting and energy conservation.
We are constantly bombarded with ideas about how to reduce our carbon footprint. Recycling remains one of the easiest and simplest ways to do this.
Did you know?
- Plastic bottles and aluminium cans can take hundreds of years to decompose, while glass takes around one million years to decompose in landfill.
- Making aluminium from recycled aluminium cans takes 95% less energy than using raw materials.
- Every recycled soft drink bottle saves enough energy to run a television for an hour and a half.
One of the major threats to the environment is the amount of waste going to landfill. This is why it is so important to reuse and recycle, and it’s easy too!
Many schools and tuckshops are currently recycling paper and cardboard, but many may not have a bin for plastics, glass and cans. If your school doesn’t have a recycling bin, ask your Principal to apply for one. Most councils supply them to schools for free.
If you can’t get a recycling bin, you can still help the enviroment by reusing containers where possible. A great example of reusing is to pass containers used in the tuckshop on to teachers for use during arts and crafts e.g. egg cartons, boxes etc.
Did you know?
- A basket of popular items from the supermarket has travelled up to 70,000km before it gets to your plate? That’s three times around Australia’s coastline.
‘Food miles’ describes the distance that food has travelled from the paddock to the plate. It provides an indication of the environmental impact of the food we eat by considering the enviromental cost of the transport.
Schools that think about food miles when designing their tuckshop menu, or catering for a school function can really make a difference to their carbon footprint.
As a general rule, to reduce food miles in your school, try to make foods from fresh ingredients. For packaged foods, choose those that have been grown, produced and manufactured locally or a least in Australia.
Buying produce in season means that the food will not travel as far to your school, and it will be of higher quality as it has not been in storage for months.
Local farmers markets can be a great place to get local, seasonal foods. You could also use fruit, vegetables or even fresh herbs grown in your own school garden (if you have one).
Did you know?
- Australia is the second highest producer of waste per capita after the United States, sending 18 million tonnes to landfill per annum. This is equivalent to one tonne for every person.
- Composting or recycling food and garden waste can reduce an individual’s waste by 50%, which can mean a reduction in landfill of around 560kg each year per person.
Some ideas to reduce waste in your school:
- Reduce packaging going to landfill by choosing items where the packaging can be recycled e.g. paper, cardboard or cornstarch based containers instead of plastic ones.
- Don’t purchase more than you need.
- Print tuckshop or school event menus on recycled or scrap paper or put it online and email it to parents. Use a specials whiteboard to prevent having to print specials each day in the tuckshop.
- Buy in bulk if your school has the facilities to store food.
- Use a big sauce bottle at events or the tuckshop instead of individually portioned packages.
- Send food scraps to compost, worm farm or even chooks. Some schools already have these or you can give them to a local community garden or a family in the school community.
- Reuse leftovers in the tuckshop. e.g. include leftover tomatoes and vegetables to make pasta sauce, other leftovers as potential pizza toppings.
Reducing power and water use
We are constantly hearing about saving water by having short showers, and conserving energy by turning off lights at home, but what does this mean for your school?
You can make a difference to your school’s food related carbon footprint by reducing power and waste, and here’s how:
- Turn electrical appliances off e.g. ovens when not in use, lights, fridges and freezers over the school holidays. It is important to turn these off at the power source. Make sure seals on fridges are regularly checked and replaced if not in good condition.
- Reduce water use by turning off taps, fixing dripping taps, installing energy efficient appliances.
- Rinse vegetables in a half filled sink rather than under running water.
- Use cross ventilation if windows have screens, to avoid appliances such as fridges over working or over heating.
- Check energy ratings for any new appliances – go for 6 stars!
- Try to streamline your workflow in the tuckshop. Could you time it so that a product can go straight from the oven into a bag rather than a mid-way stop in a pie warmer?
Is your school tuckshop eco-friendly?
If your tuckshop is catering for an eco-friendly school event, Catering for the Environment will assist you to hold a fantastic green event.
Take the Eco-Friendly Food Challenge!
Week One Challenge The focus of week one is to plan to reduce the amount of food packaging and waste that goes to landfill.
Week Two Challenge The challenge for week two is to find out where your favourite fruits and vegetables are grown. Are they locally grown and purchased in season?
Week Three Challenge The challenge for week three is to conduct a pantry audit to find out what percentage of your total pantry items are imported.
Week Four Challenge The challenge for week four is to find, make and try two new legume recipes during the week.
What can I do?
The global food system allows millions of people to have access to foods from all over the world. We are no longer restricted by what is grown locally and by the seasons. However, the long travel distances of food not only has effects on the nutritional quality of the food, but may also have an impact on the environment.
What are food miles?
‘Food miles’ is one indicator when assessing the environmental impact of foods. The term ‘food miles’ refers to how far food has travelled from the paddock to the plate. As a general rule of thumb, for the same product, the lower the food miles, the less distance it has travelled and the better the choice is for the environment and for your health. This is particularly relevant in choosing local grown fresh fruit and vegetables over produce that has travelled many miles in refrigeration.
Why minimise your food miles?
- The transport of food over longer distances releases more greenhouse gas emissions than buying locallyFoods that have been stored and transported large distances are likely to be nutritionally inferior to local foods.
- A typical Australian food basket has travelled an estimated 70,000km – this is equivalent to travelling twice around the
circumference of the Earth or travelling around Australia’s coastline three times.
- The transport of food by air generates 177 times more greenhouse gasses than shipping.
Choose less processed foods
Generally, the more processed a food is, the more energy and water it requires in the production process.
How to minimise your food miles
Become familiar with foods that are grown or produced locally and what time of the year they are available. Seasonal food guides are available from some fruit markets and online.
- Look for local farmers markets, community gardens, food co-operatives and community supported agriculture schemes.
- Grow your own fruit and vegetables and keep chickens in your own backyard.
Read the labels of packaged foods and choose those where the ingredients are grown, produced and manufactured in Australia where possible.
- Purchase fewer processed foods.
- Choose fresh fruit, nuts and vegetables for snacks rather than processed foods such as crisps, biscuits and museli bars.
- Cook meals using fresh ingredients, rather than purchasing ready-made meals.
How can you identify whether food and drinks are produced here or overseas?
‘Product of…’ labelling means the country of origin claimed must be the country of origin of each significant ingredient in the food and virtually all of the production or manufacture of the foods must have happened in that country.(5) For example, ‘Product of Australia’ means that the product is produced or manufactured in Australia, using only Australian ingredients.
‘Made in…’ means the product has been substantially changed in the claimed country and 50 percent of the cost of production has been carried out in that country.(5) For example, a can of tomatoes with the label ‘Made in Australia’ may contain fresh tomatoes that have been imported from Italy and then peeled and canned in Australia. A common label of this nature is ‘Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients’.
Buy right, eat right!
Purchasing more than we need and eating more calories than we require can have effects on our environment. The topics below have been designed to guide us in what we can do for the health of our planet regarding our food choices.
Just purchase what you need
Our current food supply system produces a significant amount of uneaten food. The more unnecessary food we buy, the more we are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, transport, processing and storage of food. (1) When food is thrown out and sent to the landfill, it decomposes and in the process releases methane, a gas with a more potent global warming potential than carbon dioxide.(1) It is for these reasons that we should simply purchase what we need. Below are some suggestions you can follow to help you reduce your food waste.
Tips to reduce food waste:
- Plan meals ahead of time and buy only what you need for your planned menu.
- Look in your fridge to see what ingredients you have before going shopping for more ingredients.
- Avoid throwing out leftovers; take them for lunch the next day or try incorporating them into another meal.
- Store foods properly.
- Think about sharing dishes when eating out, as restaurant meal sizes can be quite large, or consider ordering an entrée sized meal.
- Compost left over fruit, vegetables and grains.
Avoid eating more than your body requires
- Eat only what you need to maintain a healthy weight.
- Consider the size of your food and drink serves when at home or eating out.
- Listen to your stomach – eat slowly and stop when you are full.
- Reduce consumption of high fat and/or high sugar foods that are low in other nutrients.