Food Policy

The Square marketplace with fruit and vegetable stall

University of Reading – Sustainable Food Policy and Framework

What is Sustainable Food?

The Sustainable Development Commission describes sustainable food as food and drink that: is safe, healthy and nutritious, for consumers in shops, restaurants, schools, Universities etcetera

– provides a viable livelihood for farmers, processors and retailers, whose employees enjoy a safe and hygienic working environment whether in the UK or overseas

– respects biophysical and environmental limits in its production and processing, while reducing energy consumption and improving the wider environment

– respects the highest standards of animal health and welfare, compatible with the production of affordable food for all sectors of society

– supports rural economies and the diversity of rural culture, in particular through an emphasis on local products that keep food miles to a minimum

How is the University working to achieving this?

The University of Reading has extensive activity within food and drink, from its farms, The National Fruit Collection, teaching and research in both Agriculture and Food Sciences as well as an extensive Catering operation. As a self-funded service of the University, we are committed to consistent improvement around sustainability in a manner that is financially sustainable to allow us to continue to invest in this area. We appreciate and understand that different individuals and groups have different interpretations and views on how to achieve this, so we try to be open and transparent on our progress, to encourage conversation and debate.

We ask our regular suppliers to participate in helping us achieve our goals around sustainability by adopting and embracing this framework. Ad-hoc suppliers used for one-off purchases are checked by our team before we spend with them. We welcome micro-, small- and medium sized local and regional suppliers to join our supply chain either directly or via one of our appointed wholesalers.

The outlets and services covered by this policy are, Agriculture Café, Architecture Café, Before and After, Café No. 1, Eat at the Square, Enterprise Café, Greenlands Catering, Greenlands Bar, HBS Café – Whiteknights, Health and Life Sciences Café, Hospitality Services, Ice House, Library Café, Northcourt Bar, Park Bar, Park Eat, Park House, Park Market, Roastology, SportsPark Café, St. Patrick’s Dining, The Dairy, The Market Place, Wantage Bar and Wantage Dining. This covers all Catering activity on Reading Campuses with the exception of the Students’ Union.

Menus of Change (MoC) provides a comprehensive free-to-use socially inclusive framework, providing the basis of continual improvement and 24 clear principles to work towards. Our successful application in 2020, to join the Menus of Change Universities Research Collaborative (MCURC) as the first full UK/European Member involved extensive review, auditing and verification of our activities across operational Catering, Research and Teaching.

As a MCURC member we are involved in the research both operationally and academically to inform and advance the MoC Principles including providing freely toolkits to assist operators. Our progress on MoC and MCURC will be independently audited and verified from 2022 and published here.

This document is a living document of both completed actions and those in progress so will be updated on a regular basis.

How are we working to achieve this?

Section 1 – Food and Drink that is safe, healthy and nutritious, for consumers in shops, restaurants, schools, Universities etcetera

Things we have done or are doing;

1.1.1 The University follows the principles of Menus of Change focussing on a range of topics including reducing meat consumption, dairy products, more vegetables etcetera. Full details are here and below. This is a leading principle of how we achieve sustainable food. We are a member of the Menus of Change Universities Research Collaborative (MCURC), a group of leading Universities with interests in Food related subjects academically and who are committed to serving great food and advancing the Menus of Change through Academic Excellence. An overview of MCURC is here.

1.1.2 Between May 2019 and March 2020, a team of talented professional chefs has been put in place at Dining locations as part of the University’s focus on cooking nutritious and delicious food rather than processed foods.

1.1.43 Adoption of two vegetarian wholesalers, providing a wider range of vegan and vegetarian products, while reducing overall meat use per dish through the addition of items such as lentils in sauces

1.1.4 All outlets currently rate five stars for food hygiene –

1.1.5 Highly processed foods have been removed from our main meal production at Park Eat, Wantage, St. Pats, The Dairy, Park House and the Square.

1.1.6 Our Markets at Park Eat, Square and Pats are majority supplied by Suma Wholefoods, a vegetarian co-operative wholesaler.

1.1.7 Monosodium glutamate (MSG) or E621 is prohibited

1.18 Deep Fat frying has been either heavily restricted and removed from our larger sites.

Things we are working on;

1.2.1    Continue removal of any highly-processed foods

1.2.2. Full seasonality within our menus, we have currently written 2,500 recipes that cover Autumn/Winter. Spring and Summer are in progress.

A photo of a student with a reusable coffee cup

Section 2 – Food and Drink that provides a viable livelihood for farmers, processors and retailers, whose employees enjoy a safe and hygienic working environment whether in the UK or overseas

Things we have done or are doing;

2.1.1    The University is Fairtrade Certified and, in line with all Universities, is working towards achieving the new Fairtrade Certification Standard.

2.1.2    All non-student staff working within Catering operations are on a permanent contract with specified hours such as 36 hours (full-time) or 15 hours with no zero-hour contracts in place. All members of non-student staff are directly employed by the University of Reading.

2.1.3    A significant number of products carried that are Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, Cocoa Life or similar accreditation.

2.1.4    An increasing number of suppliers are certified B Corps and Co-operatives.

2.1.5    Suppliers are asked to meet the standards set out in this document during tender stage and demonstrate how they can further support and advance the objectives of Sustainable Food shown above. See suppliers section.

2.1.6    Training is provided to all staff around sustainable practices and our cooking teams receive further training on creating menus that have a lower impact on the environment

2.1.7    MCURC –, TUCO –, NACUFS – all provide our teams with further training and insights to develop teams.

2.1.8    We are fully owned and operated by the University who offer our permanent staff excellent benefits. All our permanent staff are employed on permanent contracts.

2.1.9    We currently provide employment to 450 students across campus within our Catering operations.

2.1.10 Sustainable Food is a contract requirement in any tender documents issued by the University and makes commitments contractually binding.

The University of Reading requires our suppliers to meet the requirement of our Sustainability Food Policy, and to demonstrate continues commitment to sustainability.

We ask the following two questions in all of the catering related tenders as a minimum:

1. Please describe how your organisation shall meet and exceed UoR Catering Sustainability policy and framework. [5 Marks]

2. Please provide any accreditations and affiliations your organisation holds in relation to industry recognised organisations for ethical sourcing. Please provide evidence of this, i.e. upload copies relevant certificates. [5 Marks]

3. The University of Reading is working towards achieving the Food for Life Gold Award. Please demonstrate how you would support the University in achieving the above? [5 marks]

Additionally, we consider each requirement individually, and add additional questions if required.

The University further monitors the compliance with the Sustainable Food Policy through supplier review meetings which also cover any new initiatives and improvements made by suppliers. Any significant developments within the food and beverage industry are considered when the Sustainable Food Policy is reviewed.

Things we are working on;

2.2.1    Improving supply chains to improve worker standards.

Student shopping at Park Eat marketplace

Section 3 – Food and Drink that respects biophysical and environmental limits in its production and processing, while reducing energy consumption and improving the wider environment

What are doing or have done

3.1.1    The University is registered with MSC through TUCO and our chain of custody number is MSC-C-53312. All fish served by the University is MSC or ASC certified. We have been fully certified by MSC since 2013 (see here)

3.1.2    Our Greenlands site uses an aerobic digester to turn waste food to compost for use around the grounds.

3.1.3    The following sites use entirely renewable energy for cooking; Park Eat, Park House, Greenlands, The Dairy, St. Patrick’s, Wantage and Park House. Eat at the Square uses majority renewable energy.

3.1.4    Park Eat uses Air-Source Heat Pumps to provide heat from the outside air to heat the building and is carbon neutral.

3.1.5    The majority of lighting across our outlets has been switched to LED lighting.

3.1.6    All electricity used is from renewable sources

3.1.7    During Academic Year 2020 our recycling rates were;

Waste Stream Total Weight % by weight
Dry Mixed Recycling 7,543kg  6.8%
Cardboard 12,324kg 12.2%
Glass 10,005kg 9.0%
Food Waste 24,124kg 21.5%
Cooking Oil 4,874kg 4.4%
Other Items 637kg 0.6%
  Total Recycling 59,511kg 53.4%
General Waste 52,002kg  46.6%
TOTAL 111,512kg 100%

This data covers Campus Commerce outlets at Eat at the Square, Park House, Wantage Bar & Catering, The Dairy, Park Eat, Greenlands, Dolchevita, St. Patrick’s, Sherfield and Ice House only. Other outlets use shared bins.

Paper Cup recycling totalled 200kg. No waste goes to landfill.

3.1.8    In 2018 the University introduced Coca-Cola Freestyle as part of a reusable bottle system allowing use to significantly reduce the number of plastic bottles being transported onto Campus and consumed on campus. To date the system has saved around 250,000 bottles of water

3.1.9    In September 2019, Frank the Barista, an innovative Coffee scheme was introduced offering significant discounts to those using a University reusable Cup. This has avoided 174,000 paper cups between 1st August 2018 and 31st July 2019.

3.1.10  The Grab and Go range made in-house for The Dairy, Wantage, St. Patrick’s, Architecture, Park Eat and Eat at the Square, is packaged in entirely plastic-free packaging that is also compostable.

3.1.11  The Choose to Reuse Meal Box scheme was introduced in September 2018, allowing customers to opt to use a reusable takeaway box that can be returned for washing to a number of outlets, where a clean one is given out.

3.1.12  All Water is sold in either packaging made from 100% recycled plastic (rPET) or aluminium cans. A hydration map of campus is also available showing where water can be found free of charge.

View our campus hydration map

3.1.13  Reusable containers, delivery trays and boxes are currently being used by a number of suppliers including butchery, fruit and vegetables, wholefoods and beer & cider.

3.1.14  The following sites use closed-fronted display fridges; The Dairy, Park Eat (1 fridge closed, 2 fridges open), Eat at the Square, Dolchevita, Architecture.

3.1.15  Our bar cellar systems have been moved to in-line cooling reducing the energy required to keep drinks cold and offering significant improvements on energy efficiency. We are currently on the second generation of system after testing an earlier system for a third party in 2015.

3.1.16  Eat at the Square, Park House, The Market Place and Roastology, The Dairy, Wantage Dining, Wantage Bar, Northcourt Bar, Ice House, Park Eat, Park Bar, Park Market and St. Patrick’s Dining have switched to enzyme-based cleaning products rather than traditional cleaning chemicals.

3.1.17  Up to 17 students are feed free of charge through our Eating Plan system allowing us to use food that would go to waste, to be used for a better purpose.

3.1.18 Infrared taps in following back of house Kitchen areas; Hospitality Kitchen, Wantage, Park Eat, The Dairy, Eat at the Square, Park House

3.1.19 Infrared taps in customer areas at the following sites; Park Eat, The Dairy.

3.1.20 Greenlands, Park Eat, Eat at the Square, Wantage, Greenlands, St. Patrick’s and the Dairy use automatic dishwashers with waste water and heat recovery systems.

3.1.21 Zero Waste Stations for dried food and other ingredients plus cleaning chemicals are available at Park Market and the Market Place.

3.1.22  Plastic straws are banned and have been replaced with Turtle Straws, made from natural straw.

3.1.23  We will purchase the most efficient appliance within it’s category, of the correct size and capacity, when replacing equipment.

3.1.24 The majority of our crockery is sourced from UK Manufacturers working to excellent environmental standards and used by default in our restaurant outlets. Metal cutlery is also used.

3.1.25 Our suppliers are required to comply with our Sustainability Policy and Framework, with the aim of continual improvement.

3.1.26 Our Hydration Map of Campus shows where to find free tap water. Please note this is currently restricted due to Public Health legislation due to COVID-19.

3.1.26  Greenlands Campus have removed single use cups from Conference areas avoiding around 3,000 paper cups per week

3.1.27 We successfully applied for Salix Grant to replace all our existing large ovens (average age was around 14 years old) with smaller and more efficient ovens. Where 10×1 is stated this is read as an oven that fits 10 trays with one on each shelf, 20×2 would be 20 trays, with two on each shelf). The totals replaced are; Park Eat (3 ovens – 20×1), Eat at the Square (3 – 20×1), Wantage (2 – 10×1), Park House (2 – 10×1), The Dairy (2 – 10×1), St. Patrick’s (2 – 20×1), Greenlands (2 – 10×1). All were replaced with Rational iCombi Pro Ovens providing a significant saving on energy and water usage compared to the previous models. Any gas models were replaced with electric as part of this. Previous models were generally 20×2 or 10×2, so we reduced the oven cavity size by 50% reducing the volume that was being heated providing further savings. Installs were completed on 24 February 2021.

3.1.28    Protein Sources 2020. See link to sources in Section 8 – Data Sources.

3.1.29    ISO Audit, successful re-certification of our ISO14001/ISO50001.

3.1.30    Energy usage for Bars & Dining – see Section 8 for Data Sources

What we are working towards

3.2.1    The following sites are working towards removing natural gas for cooking with 2 gas appliances left to replace over across our entire estate. The number is brackets is a total number of appliances remaining that use natural gas for cooking. Eat at the Square (2 – 1x Solid Top, 1x Chargrill. Significant process has been made in upgrading power supplies to kitchens to enable the switch over to be made. Last updated 17 September 2021.

3.2.2    Removal of single use plastics in process of cooking foods e.g. Cling Film

3.2.3    Removal of single use plastic pint glasses at Park Eat Bar, through modifications to back of house areas to allow washing up of glassware on a large scale.

3.2.4    Introduction of a porcelain mug compatible with Frank the Barista system allowing the complete removal of paper cups for hot drinks.

3.2.5    Introduction of a paper cup for external bar events where glass and polycarbonate cups aren’t a practical solution or a rental system that includes washing, where possible.

3.2.6    Doors on open fronted fridges at the Library (2), Agriculture (1), Before and After (1), Enterprise (1), Park Eat (1), TVSP (1), SportsPark (1), Wantage (1).

3.2.7    Switch our fleet of five vehicles to pure electric. Three vehicles currently run diesel and two are all electric. Recently the technology has improved around chilled all-electric vans suitable for food allowing us to begin the transition to all-electric.

3.2.8    Aim to be carbon positive in our daily operations through generation of renewable power on suitable sites.

3.2.9    Wrap Food Waste Road Map implementation.

3.2.10  Displaying Carbon Footprint information on menus

3.2.11  Smart Controls on Kitchen Ventilation Systems to lower speeds when cooking isn’t taking place

3.2.12  Installation of Infrared taps in customer areas at Eat at the Square, St. Patrick’s, Park House.

3.2.13  Infrared taps in back of house areas at St. Patrick’s Dining.

3.2.14  Growing of fruit, herbs and vegetables on campus in a financially sustainable manner.

3.2.15 Crockery and cutlery are available through our Delivered Catering Services, although this is more expensive as it is significantly more labour intensive due to the weight, manual handling issues including no lifts in many buildings, our vans not being able to park nearby and tight turnarounds for rooms. We are working on practical solutions including offering deliveries where customers supply their own crockery and/or re-usable cups. The safety our staff always comes first.

A photo of dispensing units for rice and lentils

Section 4 – Food and Drink that respects the highest standards of animal health and welfare, compatible with the production of affordable food for all sectors of society

What have we done or are doing;

4.1.1    The University uses solely free-range eggs since 2012 and currently purchases these locally from Beechwood Farm. Egg based products such as mayonnaise are free-range where we use them as ingredients for cooking. Where egg products are in pre-made products we are working with suppliers to switch to free range where it isn’t already so.

4.1.2    The University is committed to reducing overall quantity of meat served per serving, while increasing the quality and animal welfare standard as per Menus of Change framework.

4.1.3    All fresh, raw meat is sourced from UK Farms and certified to the Red Tractor standard as a minimum.

4.1.4    Fresh farmed fish is ASC and fresh wild caught fish is MSC accredited. We are fully certified MSC through TUCO and have been since 2013 – see here

4.1.5   The majority of beef is sourced from our own farms, including cattle involved in grassland and meadow restoration projects (see Langley Mead website). Our farms are Red Tractor certified.

4.1.6    Purchase and serving of foie gras, Kopi Lauak Coffee amongst others are prohibited

What we are working towards

4.2.1    All meat sourced from external sources certified free-range or RSPCA Assured as a minimum.

4.2.2    Exploring external auditing such as Sustainable Restaurant Association or Food for Life

A photo of Park Eat marketplace items

Section 5 – Food or Drink that supports rural economies and the diversity of rural culture, in particular through an emphasis on local products that keep food miles to a minimum.

NB Our definition of local is products and produce from Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire. Regional includes Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Surrey & West Sussex. The University is spread across Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

5.1.1    Our farms provide the majority of raw beef used in our cookery as well as fruit and lamb from our own farms. Much of our beef is involved in grassland restoration at Langley Mead Nature Reserve.

5.1.2    We have direct relationships with a number of local and regional suppliers that deliver, produce and/or supply alcoholic drinks;

– Ascot Brewing, Camberley, Surrey

– Binghams Brewery, Ruscombe, Berkshire

– Chiltern Wines, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Cotswold Cider Company, Coleshill, Oxfordshire

– Double-Barrelled, Reading, Berkshire

– Elusive Brewing, Finchampstead, Berkshire

– Fevertree, Shepperton Mallet, Somerset

– Loddon, Dunsden Green, Oxfordshire

– Loose Cannon, Abingdon, Oxfordshire

– Lovibonds, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

– Phantom Brewing, Reading, Berkshire

– Rebellion Brewery, Marlow, Buckinghamshire

– Reunion Ales, Feltham, West London

– Siren Craft Brewery, Finchampstead, Berkshire

-Sharpham Wines, Twyford, Berskshire

– SH Jones, Oxford

– Tap Social Movement, Oxford, Oxfordshire

– Tutts Clump Cider, Bradfield, West Berkshire

– West Berkshire Brewery, Yattendon, Berkshire

– Wild Weather Ales, Aldermaston Berkshire

– Windsor & Eton, Windsor, Berkshire

– XT Brewing, Thame, Oxfordshire

5.1.3    We have direct and indirect relationships with a number of local and regional suppliers that deliver, produce and/or supply food;

– Beechwood Eggs, Thatcham, Berkshire

– Cotswold Fayre, Theale, Berkshire

– Warings Bakery, Spencers Wood, Berkshire

– Hobbs Bakery, Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire

– Bug Amusements, Shiplake, Berkshire

– Jungs Bakery, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

– University of Reading Farms, Sonning and Shinfield, Berkshire

– Phil Bodwitch, Marlow, Buckinghamshire

– Snaffling Pig, Ashampstead Common, Berkshire

– Solent Butchers, Portsmouth, Hampshire

– Clarks (Wantage) t/a Wessex Mill, Wantage, Oxfordshire

– West Horsley Dairy, Lightwater, Surrey

– Coco Loco, Horsham, West Sussex

– Cotswold Fudge Company, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

5.1.4    Our menus reflect seasonality running on a 52 week cycle with an emphasis on produce (plant-forward) from the British Isles and all fresh, raw meat being sourced from the UK. Where items come from abroad, we seek to source from the closest, lowest-carbon source, e.g. Spanish Orange Juice rather than South Africa, Soya from the US and Canada rather than Brazil or UK Grown Sugar rather than the Caribbean.

5.1.5    We encourage and support local businesses attempting to tender for contracts. Contact for assistance.

5.1.6 The University provides a walled garden for student-led gardening next to Bridges Hall. Find out more here.

5.1.7 The University has provided allotments for the local community in Shinfield. You read more about this here

5.1.8 The University worked with Reading Borough Council to provide 1,000 School Meals free of charge to those in need in October 2020.

5.1.9 Herb Garden at Greenlands for our Chefs to use for their cooking

Working Towards

5.2.1    Increasing the amount of food coming from our own farms

5.2.2    Source milk from University Farms

5.2.3    Investigating further sources of local food

5.2.4    Increase the use of seasonal food

6. Suppliers

We view this document as a baseline of the standards we are currently achieving and through competitive tender processes want to partner with suppliers that share our desire to improve and elevate standards.

During tender processes please explain how you are able to continue to help us improve during the contract period, for example, using returnable packaging or delivery trays, removing/reducing single use plastic etc.

7. Prohibited Items

7.1       The following products are prohibited within our operations

Foie Gras

Tobacco and nicotine-containing substances

Kopi Lauak Coffee

Fruit (Gaming) machines

MSC Red-list Species

Expanded Foam Food Single Use Containers

Single Use Plastic disposable plates, bowls and stirrers.

Plastic Straws

E621 (MSG)

This list only covers items that are legally saleable and is not exhaustive. Items that are illegal, we cannot sell, so are not listed.

7.2       The following products require caution when being used by our team

Cashew, in relation to worker safety

Soya, in relation to where it has been grown and possible Rainforest deforestation

Palm Oil, in relation to Rainforest deforestation.

Beef, in relation to greenhouse gas emissions and using sparingly. The majority is sourced from our own farms from grass-fed cattle.

Section 8 – Data Sources




Document Owners – Heads of Catering; Last updated –  16 August 2021

Approval Route – Director of Campus Commerce/University Executive Board; Approval Annually. First issued September 2010.

Last Approved – 1 June 2021. Next Approval 1 June 2022