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Written by Master of Nutrition and Dietetic Practice student Madison Smeltzer.

Climate change has become a worldwide emergency, and food production is one of the largest drivers of environmental change around the world. As a final component to my Master of Nutrition and Dietetic Practice (MNDP) program, my research partner and I undertook a challenge to develop a framework that can be used to implement environmentally sustainable foodservice initiatives in the future.

Food and sustainability

Global actions such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement are important components of a global response towards climate change and environmental decline. Commitments to the SDGs have been made across many countries and many from other areas of society including businesses, universities (like Bond University!) and food businesses to name a few.

With food production being one of the largest drivers of environmental change around the world, it is important to make changes towards a more sustainable food system. According to the Institute of Food Science and Technology, a food system is sustainable when ‘food security and nutrition for all [is provided] in such a way that the economic, social, and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition for future generations are not compromised.’

Foodservices provide an important opportunity for change towards a more sustainable food system given that the environment in which people buy food is shaped by retailers and foodservices; however, there is limited research around the support, if any, they are receiving to increase their environmental sustainability.

Our research project

As part of our final research project, my research partner and I interviewed consultancies around the world that support foodservices in enhancing their environmental sustainability. We met a variety of leading consultancies  from a range of different countries and learned about their experiences when consulting with foodservices.

We explored the strategies they implement, skills they believe are necessary for success, challenges they face, and forms of advocacy they undertake, to name a few.

Although the research results are still in their preliminary stages, the findings are being used to  create a framework that can be used by foodservices and consultancies when implementing environmentally sustainable initiatives in the future.

Implementing sustainable strategies

We found that regardless of the company and the country these strategies came from, the experiences around the world seem to be quite similar. Some examples of strategies being implemented within foodservices include developing menus (e.g. increasing plant-based dishes); sourcing food (e.g. the locality and seasonality of the food); using technology and media (e.g. data tracking, blogging, food apps, and short films and documentaries); and incorporating events, campaigns, and wider community initiatives (e.g. interactive workshops and fundraisers).

With the climate emergency we are facing and the large impact foodservices can have on the environment, it was reassuring to hear about the positive influence these companies are having around the world and I was honoured to undertake research on such an up-and-coming,  novel area. I knew I had a passion for environmental sustainability, but it has completely escalated because of this research process.

Putting knowledge into practice

As university students, we are used to looking into research to support our work; however, understanding the process of research is a whole different story. Not only has this experience allowed me to understand research, but it has helped to guide and develop my passion both for research and environmental sustainability. Because of this research internship, I know that I want my career to be focused towards environmental sustainability.

The opportunity to connect with these leaders around the world has also allowed for professional connections. Being an international student, this has been of huge benefit to me as I feel that additional career opportunities and/or future collaborations have opened up in various countries. For example, I am now an author for a sustainable consultancy’s blog—an opportunity I might have never had if it wasn’t for this research. Needless to say, this research experience has been invaluable. The support my research partner and I received from our supervisor, Kristen MacKenzie-Shalders, our research team, and the rest of the MNDP team not only made it a learning experience, but made it enjoyable as well, so thank you to all of you. We look forward to publishing our work and sharing it with everyone!

Master of Nutrition and Dietetic Practice

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