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New research project contributes to fighting food waste in public sector supply chains

Professor Niels Heine Kristensen from Roskilde University is the project manager of a new research project studying food waste in public food procurement. The project has received a grant of DKK 4.1 million from the VELUX Foundation’s HUMpraxis programme.
Food being wasted
Roskilde University, Copenhagen Municipality and the wholesalers Dansk Cater A/S and Hørkram Foodservice A/S are in this project. Photo: Colourbox

The United Nations has identified food waste as a significant focus area for the 17 SDGs (sustainable development goals), and in Denmark, the government has decided to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030. This aim requires reducing food waste.

The public sector represents a large share of Denmark’s GDP and therefore it will be very worthwhile to reduce food waste in public sector supply chains.

A new research project headed by Professor Niels Heine Kristensen of the Department of People and Technology at Roskilde University aims to uncover the causes of food waste in public sector supply chains and identify opportunities for reducing it.

The project is receiving DKK 4.1 million from the VELUX Foundation’s HUMpraxis programme. In addition to Roskilde University, the project includes the Children and Youth Administration of the City of Copenhagen and the wholesalers Dansk Cater A/S and Hørkram Foodservice A/S as partners.

“At the Department of People and Technology, we are pleased with the partnership that we have entered into with the City of Copenhagen and a number of suppliers of food to the public sector to reduce food waste. Here at the department we have the expertise in working with partnerships on sustainable transition, regenerative agriculture, sustainable food systems and food studies. And we are really pleased that the VELUX Foundation has chosen to support this partnership,” says Anders Siig Andersen, head of the department.

Professor Niels Heine Kristensen has many years experience conducting research within sustainable food systems and he see this project as a beacon for how municipalities and other actors in the public sector can strengthen the green transition:

“If the food waste from the City of Copenhagen’s 70,000 daily meals are in the same size range as what we see in other modern food chains, the amount of wasted food could feed a large Danish town. Every day. The project we are embarking on with our partners will map current food waste and practices in the supply chain, all the way from the municipality’s purchases and along the supply chain. And it will develop research based models and concepts for how this food waste can be reduced in practice,” the professor says.

Preliminary analysis suggests that the public sector today supplies a great deal of its food waste to biogas plants and for incineration plants and that the extent of food waste is not being measured sufficiently. It is also assessed that current attempts to minimise food waste often result in food waste being moved to another level in the supply chain.

Therefore, the aim for the project is to operate in more coherent systems of the public sectors supply chains.

The project partners will study how the human, material, systemic and organisational factors influence each other in the public tender and purchasing processes and how innovative processes can be developed to minimise food waste in the public supply chain.


Will be developing recommendations

Jesper Christensen, the Mayor of the Children and Youth Administration in the City of Copenhagen, expects that the project partnership with Roskilde University on reducing food waste will strengthen the municipality’s already strong position in the work towards ensuring climate-smart and organic meals for the municipality’s residents.

“This project will contribute to ensuring our goal of a 50% reduction in food waste before 2025. This is a goal that has been adopted via our Food and Meal Strategy and it is in line with the UN’s SDGs. With 70,000 meals being served in the City of Copenhagen each day, it is important that this is accomplished on a well-founded and well-documented basis. Therefore, I am glad that we have succeeded in creating this partnership with the research group at Roskilde University and that the VELUX Foundation has chosen to support the collaboration. This means that we will be able to reach our goal of reducing food waste both in a faster and better way,” says the Mayor of the Children and Youth Administration, Jesper Christensen.  

Public sector purchases are regulated via a tender system that establishes the framework for kitchens’ food purchases and what the wholesaler’s obligations are in terms of delivery. However, different interests and at times lack of systematic knowledge can complicate contract negotiations between the various stakeholders.

Therefore, the project aims to create transparency in the amounts and causes of diverted food waste. This will be done via systematic research on public sector purchases and the everyday practices associated with the supply chains’ levels.

On that basis, the project will develop and test recommendations and concrete proposals and models for solutions to minimise food waste. It will also be an objective to improve the tender models for collaboration between stakeholders.

The partnership behind the project expects that the results will both be transferrable to other municipalities and other wholesalers in Denmark, as the public sector purchases are regulated via similar procedures across the country. Furthermore, the results will also be relevant in an EU context in relation to working with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals via tenders.



With 70,000 daily meals being served, Copenhagen Municipality is one of the largest public sector buyers.

The wholesalers Dansk Cater A/S and Hørkram Foodservice A/S are two of Denmark’s largest suppliers.