Food sustainability in the canteen, with the SU-EATABLE LIFE project

Food sustainability in the canteen, with the SU-EATABLE LIFE project

February 08, 2019

Food sustainability in the canteen, with the SU-EATABLE LIFE project

A project financed by the European Commission to prove that changing eating habits at work or school is good for our health and good for the planet.

In the fight against climate change, eating well can also help. As long as we change our eating habits and carefully choose our ingredients, the way we buy and prepare them, ensuring that our food is not only healthy, nutritious and tasty, but also sustainable in the widest sense: food should be “su-eatable”, as suggested by the witty take on the English word “suitable”. A newly-coined term capturing in one single word the sustainable approach that aims to engage corporate and university canteens – and eventually the entire catering industry - in its effort to mitigate the negative effects of food production on climate change

New eating habits to reduce climate change

Named “SU-EATABLE LIFE”, this intriguing three-year project financed by the European Commission was presented at the latest BCFN Forum at the Hangar Bicocca in Milan: “Launched in September 2018 with BCFN, this project aims to show how changing eating habits can have a significant impact on the environment” explained project coordinator Riccardo Valentini, Director of the Climate Impact Division of the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Valentini teaches at the Universitá della Tuscia in Viterbo and is a pioneer researcher of the role played by agro-forestry systems on climate change and on the greenhouse effect. His studies have been published in key scientific magazines, including Science and Nature (one of his 2005 Nature articles on the effects of the 2003 drought in Europe received nearly 1800 quotations in scientific literature).

Cutting food waste

"Data shows that by eating less meat and reducing food waste, European consumers could reduce their yearly water consumption by two million cubic meters and their yearly CO2 emissions by 5,300 tons" Even though most of the Planet is inhabited by people who eat inferior food or starve (it is estimated that over 820 million people go hungry), rich countries waste an almost equivalent amount of food, which will not nourish anyone while worsening the environment. 

At the individual level, each one of us can change their eating habits and consumption, reducing food waste and eating more vegetables and cereals. These are also the indications from BCFN's double food pyramid that combines nutritional value with low environmental impact. The real challenge is that of introducing this thinking, and thus the new eating habits, in the realm of professional catering, restaurants and university or corporate canteens, starting with Barilla in Parma and several UK universities. 

The overarching objective is to induce consumers to substitute meat, and red meat in particular, with vegetable protein: "If we reduce red meat consumption to two portions a week, we could reduce the global surface area dedicated to animal raising by three quarters: almost the size of Europe, United States, China and Australia put together", Valentini explained. There would also be enormous benefits in terms of water consumption. "If the world was predominantly vegan, greenhouse gas emissions linked to agriculture would be 70% lower than they are today". 

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