Food consumption patterns are today at the heart of the global debate on sustainability. To comply with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, many studies suggest decreasing the consumption of Animal Source Foods (ASF). While various impacts of this transition have been assessed, its implementation, and related consequences in school catering services are still under investigation. Since school food programs are central in promoting long-term dietary shifts at societal level, assessment interventions at schools are key. Hence, this work examined environmental and costing improvement opportunities for ASF reduction in a set of Italian public-school canteens which are generalizable to the broader regional setting. The study used a mixed-method approach combining optimization models, life cycle assessment, and life cycle costing, within a stakeholders participatory framework. A linear programming method was employed to design four scenarios: minimizing beef and dairy, pig and poultry, all meats and dairy and maximizing pulses. Subsequently, a cradle-to-grave life cycle analysis on economic and environmental impacts was carried out to compare the different scenarios. This research shows that a shift in diets at the school canteen level might ensure until a 22% reduction in Global Warming Potential and about 1% reduction in cost per average meal, leading to overall substantial savings per yearly menu. Further research might take a territorial approach investigating menus acceptability and grounding the theoretical model into a more practical day to day school food planning tool.
Co-authored with Mara Petruzzelli (University of Bologna), Laura García-Herrero (University of Bologna) and Fabio De Menna (University of Bologna)