NAME: Katarzyna Dembska
PROJECT: Sustainability in the School Foodservice
Since the post-war years in Italy, changes to the Mediterranean diet, namely the consumption of more animal proteins, has translated to a higher demand for water. With a population of over 60 million in Italy, water basins are beginning to dry out.
As dietary choices shift from legumes, cereals and fresh produce toward protein-rich foods like meat, eggs, and milk, which utilize intensive production techniques, the impact of agriculture on the environment becomes profound. the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that agriculture uses 70 percent of all water withdrawals worldwide, and the percentage is rising.
Dietary changes are one way of facing the rising challenge of water scarcity in Italy. Rather than focus on the individual however, BCFN YES! finalist Katarzyna Dembska’s project turns to an entire food operation, where the environmental impact of food choice can be felt on a broader scale.
2.8 million children attend primary school in Italy. Since school lunches are becoming more prevalent, Dembska decided to focus her attention here. School lunches can serve as instructive, teaching children about healthy food choices and environmental stewardship.
Using the Water Footprint Extensive Calculator, developed by A.Y. Hoekstra and A.K. Chapagain, Dembska’s project calculated the water use of a “water-consuming” lunch menu and an “ecological” menu. Findings revealed that an ecological lunch, which was plant-based, provided a 67 percent reduction in water resource consumption. If this alternative menu were to be implemented at least once a week, the environmental impact of the school community would be significantly reduced.
Reconsidering food choices based on their impact on wellbeing and the environment is an important way of making sure the environment stays healthy.