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Imperial College London launches Sustainable Food and Drink Policy

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
Man in suit and man in apron and white shirt standing in front of colourful wall in university college campus cafe

(Left to Right) Kamil Khoury and Tony Shepherd at the College Cafe. Credit: Imperial College London

Imperial College London has launched a new Sustainable Food and Drink Policy which aims to reduce the environmental impact of the food and drink served at its catering and retail outlets.

The new policy will apply to all catering spaces across the university, as well as third-party outlets, as part of a ‘whole college’ approach.

The plan has been put together following consultation with students and staff, according to the university, and covers a range of areas relating to sustainable food, such as procurement, preparation, provision, food waste management and education.

Its implementation will be led by the in-house catering team, Taste Imperial, who will help all restaurants, bars, and stores on-campus to develop new menus, as well as change how they procure food and equipment and raise awareness on the environmental impact of food.

One major change is the elimination of beef from college menus by 2026 – with all such products being phased out by 30% each year. Potential replacements include beans, pulses, and organic fruit and vegetables, which have a much lower carbon footprint.

Fish will still be available on menus but must be Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certified. In addition, all dairy-free milk will be offered at no extra charge by the end of the 2022-23 academic year. Local, seasonal produce will also be prioritised.

As well as changing food on-campus, Imperial also plans to increase the educational materials available to students and staff on how to make sustainable food and drink choices on campus.

New community spaces will also be created to support student and staff involvement in sustainable food projects.

Head of Catering and Events, Kamil Khoury said: “The college is a global leader in research on climate change and sustainability, so it’s important that we walk the walk ourselves.

“The food and drink sector will play a huge role in reaching the UK’s net zero targets, and I’m incredibly happy that we will be on the forefront here at the college.

“Our ultimate goal is to develop and apply an ethical and sustainable procurement system to ensure that the college’s social and environmental impacts are appropriately considered.”

Imperial isn’t the first university in the UK to change its food offerings in a bid to reduce its environmental impact. Back in November, the University of Stirling’s Student Union voted in favour of making the food served at its catering facilities fully plant-based by 2025.

Support for such changes to menus hasn’t been well received at all universities, however, with students at Edinburgh University rejecting motions in 2020 to ban meat from their catering spaces.

Tony Shepherd, Executive Chef and Head of Food Production at Imperial commented on the Sustainable Food and Drink Policy and its potential to cause controversy: “The goal is never to remove choice for our customers. It’s a difficult balance; we want to educate and inform so that we can all make more sustainable choices.

“But then there are things – beef is an example – where we’re limited by what our supply chain can do. We can’t realistically provide a more ‘sustainable route’ for beef products ourselves, so we must make the call that it will be replaced with options that are more sustainable.”

The college says the policy will be reassessed at least once a year to see how much progress it is making in reaching its targets.


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