Peter Wright
Sustainability made simple at Commonwealth Games kitchens

by Peter Wright

Former President of the Australian Culinary Federation Peter Wright is now a much in demand consultant to foodservice sector suppliers and businesses.

Most chefs hear the words ‘sustainability’ and ‘environment’ and immediately tune out. However my recent experience at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow showed me first hand that a few simple processes and disciplines can vastly improve the environmental footprint produced by a busy kitchen.

My role at the Games was to manage the quality of food and service at the Athletes Villages. These included the main village in Dalmarnock with 6500 residents and three satellite villages for the shooting and diving athletes and another 700 residents at Edinburgh, Carnoustie and Dundee.

The main village included a 24 hour restaurant with 2014 seats for athletes and official residents and another 500 seats for the workforce. Imagine the world’s biggest buffet with a menu of more than 180 items, fuelled by a massive kitchen with over 100 chefs and delivered by 220 serving staff, all free. The biggest day of the games at the village saw circa 27,000 meals produced over a 24-hour period – 35 tonnes of food delivered, prepared, cooked and served in one day, which is an amazing feat.

Scotland is a land of food and drink with some of the best natural produce in the world and the city of Glasgow spent several years preparing for the Games. One of its obligations was to host the Games with responsible environmental and sustainability standards. This was achieved by creating a food charter with a strategy of sourcing local food from Scotland, where possible, from sustainable and traceable sources. Experience from past Commonwealth Games such as Manchester 2002, Melbourne 2006 and Delhi 2010 assisted Glasgow 2014 to raise the bar when planning its food services in order to provide for a wide range of tastes and interests.

The food charter demonstrated the city’s commitment to taking proper account of the sustainability of the food provided at the Games and to promote healthy living and healthier eating options. The legacy of this will be a greater focus on improving the health 
of Scotland’s population, with a particular emphasis on the prevention of obesity in the general population, through a program that both benefited and educated the caterers at each Games venue.

The charter also focused on environmental sustainability – impacting the sourcing of food and then the correct disposal of residual waste with minimal to zero landfill. These requirements take into consideration cost and procurement decisions, being mindful that the choices made when designing a food service of this scale creates significant environmental impacts.

The Athletes Village in Glasgow produced over 400,000 meals in 30 days in a temporary facility and created over 60 tonnes of uncontaminated organic waste made up of food scraps, trimmings and peelings that was converted to bio fuel through a planned recycling program. The process was easy, simple and highly effective – the key was successful planning and following the agreed food charter/ environmental business plan.

The lesson from all this is clear: focus your menus on local and seasonal produce and create a manageable waste stream that you understand and that does not contribute to landfill.

The next Commonwealth Games will be held on home soil at the iconic Gold Coast from the 4th to the 15th of April 2018 and will be the largest sporting event staged in Australia this decade, and the largest the Gold Coast has ever hosted. In preparation for the Games the Queensland Government will deliver three new competition venues and undertake major upgrades to a further seven venues. The Games will generate an economic impact of approximately $2 billion and create up to 30,000 full-time equivalent jobs.