Sustainable and Ethical Catering Statement


1. This statement lays down the College’s approach towards sustainable and ethical catering  practices and management. In particular it: 

a. states the College’s aspirations to minimise the impact of its catering operations on the  environment; 

b. states how the College intends to promote sustainable and ethical practices and  consumption; and

c. guides the Meals Committee in its duty to provide advice to the Domestic Bursar on  policy relating to meals and the conduct of the kitchen.  


2. The Catering Department at Darwin College not only has to provide a varied menu for a diverse  international membership but also must do so on a limited budget. With over 600 students  from 60-70 countries there is a requirement to provide, at every meal, something that everyone  can eat.

3. That food is subsidised by not reflecting kitchen staff salaries and other overheads (such as gas  and electricity costs) in meal prices. Neither does the College charge a fixed, termly, Kitchen  Fixed Charge which can place a disproportionate burden on irregular diners.

4. In order to reduce costs the College is part of consortium of Cambridge colleges in order to bring  collective bargaining power to food purchases. This approach allows us to buy better quality  products for less and gives us access to ethical providers and sustainable products. Sourcing and  providing such food is important to the College and this statement begins that process formally.

5. Already we have begun to make progress:

a. we continue to maintain the highest environmental health and hygiene standards. We currently rate 4/5 after the latest inspection and hope to improve on a re-inspection;

b. wherever possible in existing planned menus we use MSC-certified sustainable fish;

c. although the budget for 2012/3 was set a year ago we have begun to provide ethically  sourced and sustainable food where this is financially possible;

d. we use vegetable and sunflower oils in order to reduce the amount of saturated fats in  the food we provide; and

e. we always offer hot and cold vegetarian alternatives to meat.

Specific aspirations

6. The following are specific short-term aims: (We define ‘short-term’ as in the next one to two academic years)

a. only to use non-battery chicken and eggs;

b. to offer a vegan meal once a week;

c. to investigate and trial ways of reducing the sodium levels in our food;

d. not to supply any endangered species of fish and to source our seafood from sustainable  or MSC certified fisheries;

e. to source meat, vegetable and fruit locally where possible; 

f. to label meals clearly and appropriately; and

g. to provide for compost (as opposed to land-fill) food waste. 

7. The following are specific long-term  aspirations: (‘Long-term’ aspirations point the way success in short-term aims will take us and are, firstly, usually dependent on success in those aims and secondly, something that we assess will take us at least 3 years to achieve.)

a. only to serve free-range chicken and eggs;

b. always to offer a vegan alternative;

c. to offer low-sodium meals;

d. to prioritise local produce when purchasing; and

e. to use suppliers that use biodegradable and not petroleum-based packaging

Publicity, review and reporting

8. All members of the College and its staff are welcome to comment on this statement. Comments  should be addressed to Domestic Bursar.

9. This statement is a starting point for the continuing introduction of sustainable and ethical  catering practices and will be subject to regular review and amendment to reflect both progress  and changing aspirations.

10. The Meals Committee will report annually and publicly on our successes and failures with regard  to this statement and present amendments to the statement as necessary.


11. It is accepted that any statement such as this cannot exist in a vacuum and must be subject to  financial realities. In particular:

a. the College’s ability to subsidise catering operations will continue to be subject to  financial constraints;

b. the College needs to be a member of vehicles such as the colleges’ food purchasing  consortium in order to maximise value for money; 

c. the international nature of the College means that a wide variety of foods needs to be  offered to diners in order to ensure that everybody can eat something at every meal;  and

d. ‘Rome was not built in a day’ and that establishing the full range of its aspirations will be  an incremental and lengthy process.  


Presented by the Meals Committee to and endorsed by the College Council 5th June 2013
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