ONE SCHOOL which is leading the way in tackling food waste and improving their pupil’s access to regular nutritious meals, is Cumnock Academy in Ayrshire, pioneered by teacher Carrie Smith.

For many years Ms Smith voiced her irritation with the level of food waste in the schools’ canteen and in January 2018 she started a surplus food initiative which has both positively impacted on reducing food waste and addressed the health and wellbeing of the pupils:

“Food waste has always been a bug bearer of mine and is something which I have found was commonly accepted and not challenged in school canteens. In December 2017 I was called to the medical room to see one of the pupils under my guidance who I discovered hadn’t eaten for two days due to her family struggling with financial pressures over the festive period,” she continued. “This is unfortunately the reality of several of our families and was made worse by knowing a few metres away healthy nutritious food was being scooped in to the bin. Enough was enough and that following January with the support of our head teacher we launched the surplus food initiative,” she stated.

“It’s a simple idea which involves scooping out any surplus food at the end of the day in to takeaway containers which make up a balanced meal and pupils have the opportunity to pick up a meal when they leave school. We have many kids who benefit from a meal for a variety of reasons such as supporting young carers, so they have one less thing on their mind or fuelling pupils who head straight to extracurricular activities. We encourage all our pupils to take part and want to make sure that no stigmas are attached to the process - of who does and doesn’t take part,” she commented.

The initiative isn’t means tested and all pupils are encouraged to take a meal, but quiet words are had with kids who could benefit from the process. Ms Smith explains how young farmers are benefiting from access to surplus meal during the lambing season:

“We have a lot of young farmers in the school who are working around the clock at this time of year and there is concern for their wellbeing especially when they are putting in shifts from first thing in the morning before school and afterwards, until late at night,” she continued. “If we can give these pupils are meal on their way out it is one less thing to worry about so they can get on and help on the farm.

“We have managed to reduce food waste significantly and as everything is prepared on site during school hours, there are no additional over-heads, staffing requirements or excessive costs. The only cost are the trays and labels which we put on the containers to identify storage instructions and allergies which are minimal,” She concluded.

Cumnock Academy has seen around 25-45 pupils every day benefit from these surplus meals and Ms Smith explained that her dream is that this becomes the norm and protocol for every school, college or university in Scotland and hopes to be involved with getting the ball rolling.