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Health & Nutrition Award: King’s Food Team - King’s College London

18th Apr 2024 - 13:12

Historically, the menus at King’s College London (KCL) were written based on menu options that were on trend and what the competition had to offer. The catering team reviewed their food strategy and created a three-year menu development plan.

This menu development plan is based on the ‘Menus of Change’ principles, which integrates nutrition and environmental science to help deliver optimal nutrition, environmental stewardship and resilience as well as social responsibility within the staff and student communities. 

The menus have been re-engineered to an ‘Inverted Menu Design’ principle, where local, seasonal and environment-friendly items are sourced first, menus then written, followed by nutrition analysis and finally carbon mapping.

KCL’s academic research staff, including Professor Tim Spector, Dr Rachel Gisbon and Dr Megan Rossi as well as colleagues from the KCL nutrition team, analyse the menus to ensure they feature mood, gut and brain foods, thus incorporating their award-winning research findings into the menus and cooking techniques

A radical example of King’s Food Team’s work was the removal of all dairy products from the cooking process. This was a challenge whilst producing desserts, but the chefs recreated the same mouthfeel, textures and taste using white beans.

The King’s Food Team trialled mapping the carbon footprint of menus online and after positive feedback it is now available on site at every sales point. This challenges chefs to create more sustainable dishes and customers to consider the CO2e of their food choices. 

As a result of these efforts, the meals at KCL now contain on average 25g of protein, lunchtime meals have reduced their salt content by 0.464g (13% reduction) and increased their fibre content by 30% per meal from 9.7g to 12.4g, equating to two portions of an adult’s daily requirement of vegetables.

The menus are 60% plant-based and 70% vegetarian. The King’s Food Team are actively reducing the consumption of meat and faux meat, serving more grains, seeds and a variety of plants.

To encourage being healthy on campus, they launched the King’s Move app, that encourages physical activity by rewarding users with points for various activities such as walking, running, cycling, and swimming. These points can then be redeemed for various rewards, including healthy treats from King’s food, a day pass to the King’s Sport & Wellness Gym or a King’s Move Hoody.

Since the review in KCL’s food strategy, 350,000 hot dishes have been sold, generating a revenue in the region of £1.5m. Additional benefits include positive customer feedback, loyalty and mostly importantly a heathier community on campus.

This has also had an impact on their sustainability credentials, and this is measured by the reduction in food waste generated, plate scrapings are minimal and waste from food preparation is also reduced. As food is locally sourced, transport is reduced, thus reducing CO2 emissions.

The use of seasonal vegetables and animal food products of a higher quality also has a lighter impact on the environment. CO2t savings over the life cycle of the project so far are 6.42 tonnes.