Sustainability is not just an intrinsic characteristic of certain food; it has above all to do with the way food is handled and used from the production to consumption, on an ecological, social and economic level. If you choose sustainably produced seasonal and local food, vegetarian dishes or sustainable fish, you decrease the ecological footprint.
We also highlights health in this work. Each kitchen complies with the rules and regulations on food safety, and with the HACCP standards. A correct price for all actors in the food chain is essential. Sustainability or “high quality” does not necessarily have to be synonym to “high price”.
Often money is saved by taking measures to decrease waste and meat. To spread this broad vision on sustainability, Vredeseilanden works around six rules of thumb in the different counseling programmes:
- less meat;
- local and seasonal products;
- products from sustainable agriculture;
- products from fair trade;
- less food squander and waste;
- fish from sustainable fishing.
Vredeseilanden gives each participating kitchen an intensive and personalised counseling, to fit the needs of each specific kitchen.
The outlined counseling usually covers one year, but depending on the kind of kitchen and its possibilities, this period can be shortened or extended. Three steps can be distinguished. Vredeseilanden offers total support in different ways, for instance by giving info sessions, thematic workshops, searching products and suppliers, communication material, taste happenings ...
1. Analysis or baseline measurement
In this baseline measurement the actual work method and the possibilities and limitations of the kitchen are mapped: the kitchen organisation, equipment, type of dishes, customers, pricing, stock management, orders, the current sustainability policy…
2. Action plan
Based on this screening, concrete goals are set and included in a year plan.
It is important to work step by step. It is only when the entire kitchen team is convinced of the need to change certain things and when the customers are happy, that the next step is put into action.
3. Establishment of an internal working group
A strong internal work group is a key factor to success. This working group includes people of the organisation with different backgrounds and visions with regard to collective catering kitchens. Each of them contribute from their own point of view.
The working group is involved in the base line measurement and its first task is to work out the action plan. The working group has regular meetings during which they discuss, evaluate and if needed, adjust the goals and the changes made.
The staff members need to know the background of the sustainability story because they are in direct contact with the customers. In other words, they need to make the customers enthusiastic for this sustainability story.
This does not end with the kitchen staff alone. Also other departments, faculties or management must be involved in the project. It is crucial to inform and to be determined to start a change in conduct in order to succeed in the changes made. To make sure that the results obtained are adopted by other bodies, it is equally important to communicate them in the first place.
At the end of the counseling a thorough evaluation is done with the people responsible for the kitchen and the members of the work group.
Customers can also be asked for information to get a better insight in the impact of the project.
The final report is based on the results and includes recommendations and tips for the future.
In fact the sustainability process never ends. There is nothing like something that is 100% sustainable, it is a continuous search and the kitchen needs to constantly consider the different options.
- It is difficult to establish the exact social impact of the catering programme of Vredeseilanden of the last 6 years. An awareness process took place in each of the kitchens that participated in the project.
- The people involved show an important self-awareness, awareness of the staff members and their customers.
- The project was positively received in almost all collective catering kitchens.
- A lot of kitchen managers say that they had expected more resistance but that it never happened.
- Taste is an important criteria to decide whether a meal is successful. Customers will only continue to buy sustainable meals if the taste can convince them.
- It is important to focus on the social aspects of the company policy: respect for the human rights, working conditions and development possibilities.
- It is very important to have a goal-oriented communication on the steps that have been accomplished in order to strengthen the demand for sustainable nutrition. This demands conscience-raising actions focused on a change of behaviour of the end users in the collective catering kitchens. The communication needs to be done on different levels: internally within the kitchen, to the customers and to the outside world.
- At the time the counseling by Vredeseilanden has stopped, there is a certain dilution. New steps are not taken easily.
- This means that it is important to pay attention to the necessary follow-up.