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Student spotlight: Emily Narey’s project on food waste

News | Posted on Friday 28 July 2023

Recent BSc Environmental Science graduate Emily Narey investigates the University’s consumer food waste behaviour.

We’re excited to share a fantastic sustainability project undertaken by one of our wonderful students. Emily Narey, who graduated with a BSc Environmental Science last week, has written her dissertation project investigating consumer food waste behaviour at the University York, and how we can redistribute food to limit waste and support community needs.

We asked Emily to share more about this fascinating project, and what she learned from her experience. Read Emily’s story below:

Tell us about your research project.

My research project was “An Investigation into Consumer Food Waste Behaviour at the University of York: Redistributing Food to Limit Waste and Support Community Needs”.

I aimed to find if there was a need to reduce food waste at the University of York and, based on that, I then aimed to find potential methods to reduce it. I also hoped to find whether it was possible to redistribute some of this food to the local community via means of a community fridge, food-sharing app, or food donations, inspired by the local food waste initiatives Refill Café, The General Store (@Spark), and the apps TooGoodToGo and Olio. I conducted a literature review, questionnaires with the University community at catering outlets, and interviews with members of staff.

Tell us about some key findings from your project. What did you discover about food waste on campus?

  • There is definitely a need to reduce food waste at the University as our 2021/22 recordings of food waste equated to 62.2 tonnes a year from just 5 of the on-campus catering outlets (Piazza, Derwent, Roger Kirk, Vanbrugh, and Courtyard).
  • My questionnaire found that 58% of questionnaire participants said they would consume food that was being ‘thrown away’ by university caterers if it was safe to consume and accessible. This is a great finding as it supports the potential to introduce some redistribution initiatives at the University if possible.
  • My interviews showed that better communication between event organisers and Campus Kitchen was needed. My participant from Campus Kitchen believed that leftover food was due to over-ordering, whereas event organisers said that they actively under-order for events. This needs addressing but could be from no-shows to the events or low-attendance etc.
  • The largest recordings of food waste across the year were seen at the end of term e.g November, March, June. It is assumed this is due to students leaving campus and it being unclear how many people will need to be served.

What methods could be used to reduce food waste?

Some potential methods I found to reduce/redistribute food waste were:   

  • Posters in the canteen to share awareness of food waste
  • Changes to how catered accommodation meals are served
  • A registration/booking system to let catering staff know how many to people to cater for
  • The introduction of a community fridge or food share apps (e.g. TooGoodToGo or Olio)

What did you learn from your experience doing this project?

I learned that the University community is incredibly supportive when it comes to research and that there are always people out there who are happy to give you information when you ask! I also learned that there is definitely a need to address the amount of food waste at the University of York and that there are a variety of successful methods in studies at other UK universities that could be implemented on our campus to reduce food waste.

What are your future plans?

I graduate this summer and from there I’m exploring different opportunities to further my experience which I hope will lead to a career spent helping the environment. I’m also happy to chat to anyone about my research project if they want any more info!

Emily's dissertation received a 1st class grade. A huge thank you to Emily for sharing her sustainability dissertation project with us and please join us in wishing her every success in her future endeavours!

You can read Emily’s full dissertation here:

Emily Narey's dissertation (PDF , 1,035kb)

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Sustainability at York

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Sustainability at York