Discount for less rice cuts leftovers by half

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 November, 2009, 12:00am

The amount of leftover food at vocational school canteens dropped by half on days when students were given an option of taking less rice in exchange for a HK$1 discount, a caterer has found.

The choice was made available to students as part of a campaign by Greeners Action to reduce the amount of food waste.

Nine canteens on campuses belonging to the Institute of Vocational Education, the School of Business and Information Systems and Youth College - all members of the Vocational Training Council - are taking part in the effort.

Under the project, which began yesterday and will run until April, students are given the option of 'less rice, HK$1 less' every Wednesday in participating canteens. The project first ran from March to May.

So Ming Caterers was behind four of the canteens taking part in both projects. Leftover food dropped by half on Wednesdays, manager So Wai-kin said.

'On normal days about one third of food is left. On Wednesdays it's about one sixth,' he said.

About 40 to 50 people asked for less rice in each canteen on a Wednesday.

The caterer supplies 4,000 dishes of rice to various campuses and hospitals every day. Most students who requested less rice were female, the manager said.

Nevertheless, the manager said rising costs made it difficult for the company to run the programme every day.

'Prices of rice and oil have increased 5 to 10 per cent in half a year. But our contract with schools states we can't raise meal prices,' he said. 'By reducing the price by HK$1, we earn 30 per cent less per dish.'

But things had to be done in order to save the earth, he said.

Government data shows the city sends 3,130 tonnes of food waste to landfills every day. This constitutes 35 per cent of the total waste produced by the city each day.

A number of students at the Kowloon campus of the Institute of Vocational Education said they were unaware of the 'less rice' initiative.

'They should step up promotions. It's best if cashiers in canteens can remind us of it when we pay for our lunches,' Ann Leung Wun-ching, 19, said.

Another student, Rainbow Leung, 19, said she would have asked for less rice if she had known about the programme. 'I eat up all the rice because I don't want to waste anything. It makes me very full,' she said.

Yuen Tsz-ki and Pang Ka-chun, students who had won recognition for their efforts in reducing food waste, said they always ate everything before them. 'I rarely ask others to eat up everything. I help them finish all the food,' Pang said.

Apart from schools, 26 food chains with 170 restaurants also took part in the Save Food project from March to October. Instead of offering the HK$1 discount every Wednesday, they offered it on the first Wednesday of every month.

Greeners Action project officer Yip Chui-man said they would like to add more days to the programme.