Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.
If large amounts of food are prepared off-site and delivered, there is a risk of packaging and food waste polluting the environment, creating a visible eyesore for the community, creating a significant cost for the municipality (collection and disposal), and can be a long-term environmental cost as dumpsites fill up faster and will need to be replaced before their expected usable life ends. This can cause a public health hazard due to disease vectors, including vermin and mosquitoes.
Gender-sensitive programmes enhance girls’ enrolment in education; help keep girls in schools at vulnerable ages; and improve the diets of adolescent girls. There is growing evidence that even in conflict settings, school feeding programmes can enhance enrolment and reduce inappropriate labour, especially for girls. This is also an opportunity to foster healthy diet practices, including sustainable environmental management.
Natural resource depletion
Solid and organic waste
Soil and water pollution from food waste and food packing
Potential disease spread
Air pollution from transportation of food
Cooked meal food and food rations distributions can have a range of environmental impacts including solid waste pollution from packaging, containers, and utensils. School feeding programmes often produce substantial amounts of solid waste from using single-use cutlery and packaging, including expanded polystyrene that takes tens of thousands of years to break down in the environment and can’t be recycled.
School feeding programmes also produce substantial quantities of organic waste as portion sizes are often not adjusted to individual requirements. This organic waste is often dumped leading to disease spread.
Food waste can lead to increase disease vectors/health risks and damage to proximate ecosystems. Vehicle greenhouse gas emissions from remote food procurement and local distribution.
Specific strategies, such as fuel-efficient stoves, dedicated woodlots, recycled and biodegradable packaging can help reduce negative environmental impacts.
Organize campaigns to pick up waste produced by the packaging of school feeding rations, while at the same time sensitising children about the importance of waste management and collection.
Select quick-cook ingredients and techniques to reduce cooking times such as pre-soaking of pulses.
Use re-usable plates and cutlery wherever possible, and sustainable/recyclable / compostable alternatives where not.
Compost food waste or arrange for its use as local pig feed. Organic waste may also be used in low-cost biodigesters.
Any packaged food should use compostable packaging using natural materials, wooden cutlery and avoid the use of styrofoam and plastic.
Vehicle greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by sourcing food locally, or using efficient vehicles and efficient procurement routes.
At the programme design stage choose food items that do not need prolonged cooking, or raise awareness amongst schools and communities on techniques that shorten cooking time, such as soaking pulses in water the night before meal preparation.
Collective food preparation and consumption on-site in dining rooms provide a more controlled environment that can potentially reduce waste and ensure healthy diets/nutrient consumption and ensure food people are eating has been produced sustainably. Where possible, provide food on-site, retrieve plates and cutlery for reuse and ensure immediate disposal of waste. Use re-usable plates and cutlery wherever possible. Where not possible then use sustainable cutlery and crockery that can be recycled or composted, such as paper, cardboard, bamboo, coconut.
Aim to compost food waste and try to source food locally. In some areas, it may be possible to develop relationships with local agriculture for the removal of food waste from schools, to feed pigs. Work with the integration sector to see if this could be a useful input to agricultural livelihoods or to provide to farmers since this might also increase trust among communities.
Organic waste may also be used in low-cost biodigesters for energy production, which could be developed in coordination with the shelter and WASH sectors. If it is necessary to provide packaged food, source compostable packaging using natural materials, wooden cutlery, and avoid the use of styrofoam and plastic.
Vehicle greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by sourcing food locally, or using efficient vehicles and efficient procurement routes, low weight packaging, and “just in time” deliveries.
WFP, 2010, Learning from experience – Good practices from 45 years of school feeding, 68p.
A waste management plan is in place (including recycling, composting…)
A feasibility study on connecting small-scale farmers to markets is in place.
This requires close collaboration with the livelihoods approach and planning towards a long-term sustainable vision. This could be done with livelihood programming