Sodexo is a large services company that provides catering, facilities management and other services in schools, workplaces, hospitals, military barracks, prisons and leisure venues across the UK. It serves approximately one million meals a day so is in a position to make a big difference through changes to its food offering.
The food we eat – growing, producing and consuming it – has a massive impact on the planet. WWF has found that food is responsible for around 30% of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions. Sodexo challenged itself to produce a set of meals that were more sustainable and nutritious, but suitable to be served regularly in its contracts. Through this it came up with the Green & Lean concept.
Working together, WWF experts and Independents by Sodexo chefs developed a range of Green & Lean meals. These meet a set of ten criteria to ensure they are nutritious, lower-carbon and that the ingredients are responsibly sourced. For example, plant-based foods have to account for at least two thirds of the volume of each meal; refined grains are replaced with whole grains; and meat and fish needs to have relevant certification, such as MSC or RSPCA Assured.
The meals include favourites such as beef lasagne, chicken and leek pie and Lancashire hot pot. Sodexo were determined from the outset that the sustainability and nutritional gains on the meals were achieved by making small changes to popular, well-loved dishes, without dramatically changing the taste or the look of the dish. For example, the Green & Lean lasagne contains more carrots, onions and celery than Sodexo’s original recipe and less beef mince. It also contains wholemeal rather than white flour pasta.
In the autumn term of 2015, eight schools (to which Sodexo provides catering services) piloted the meals as part of their regular menus. In total almost 20,000 meals were served.
The changes to original recipes meant that over a tonne of extra vegetables were served and the equivalent of the weight of a cow in meat was saved. Feedback on the meals has been good, both from students and school management teams. The development team are now assimilating all the feedback and working on the menus in order to create a final set of approximately 40 Green & Lean meals that Sodexo will build into their offer for independent schools.
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