Food for thought as University earns its sustainable 'Michelin stars'

Likened to Michelin stars, the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) encourages a more focused approach to achieving sustainability, rating restaurants in three main categories: sourcing, environment and society.

Speaking after the University was awarded ‘Three Star Sustainability Champion’ status, Plymouth University’s Director of Commercial Services, Ian Gribben, who oversees campus catering, said: 

“We are delighted to be recognised as a ‘Champion’ organisation. We have all been working hard to achieve a good balance between the moral, ethical and financial values while helping to target and support local businesses, British producers and local foods. It is a challenge, but this reinforces our public pledge and commitment to developing a sustainable food culture at Plymouth University.”

Plymouth has been the overall best performing university in the annual People and Planet Green League for the past six years, among the global top 10 in the UI GreenMetric Rankings, and has made huge strides recently around its food service. Current projects include rolling out a model of sustainable catering on site, which considers local and sustainable sourcing; increasing community access to healthy and fresh food; working across the city as a Food Plymouth funding partner to gain Sustainable Food City status; and using cafés as an informal learning resource for students. One of them has even been opened up so customers can see staff preparing the food fresh on site.  

A combination of food recycling and food bank donations have contributed to a 66 per cent reduction in food going to landfill, and kitchens have made the switch to organic products including milk, yoghurts and porridge. 

Julie Barker, Chair of The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO), said: 

“We were particularly struck by Plymouth University’s commitment to source from local producers exemplified by its sandwiches for which all the ingredients come from within 20 miles. Equally impressive are its efforts to reduce its environmental footprint. 
"The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) and The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) have worked together to develop the new University Catering Rating, taking into account the unique nature in the raft of dining occasions they provide. Plymouth has played a crucial role in modelling and testing the new rating – receiving an exceptional score, equating to Three Stars – the highest rating.”

Ian Gribben added: 

“This award adds to our growing portfolio of achievements which include a Good Egg Award, presented by Compassion in World Farming in recognition of sourcing only cage-free eggs; a Food For Life Bronze Award for the second year in a row, for preparing our food fresh and on-site, and Fairtrade Status, which is about offering fair conditions and prices for farmers and workers in developing countries.”

The latest initiative, led by the University’s Head Chef Darren Procter, includes a partnership with a Cooperative Education Trust, and sees the University working with five primary schools in Cornwall to educate the children in the food journey 'from plough to plate'.