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Sci Total Environ. 2019 Mar 20;657:1150-1160. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.12.131. Epub 2018 Dec 11.

Energy and environmental life cycle assessment of an institutional catering service: An Italian case study.

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University Mediterranea of Reggio Calabria, Department of Heritage, Architecture, Urbanism, Salita Melissari, Reggio Calabria 89124, Italy.
Politecnico di Milano, Department of Architecture, Built Environment and Construction Engineering, Piazza Leonardo da Vinci, 32, Milan 20133, Italy.
University of Palermo, Department of Energy, Information Engineering and Mathematical Models (DEIM), Viale delle Scienze Ed. 9, Palermo 90128, Italy.
University of Palermo, Department of Energy, Information Engineering and Mathematical Models (DEIM), Viale delle Scienze Ed. 9, Palermo 90128, Italy. Electronic address:


Food production is recognised as one of the major drivers for global environmental pressure. In the last years, changes in consumption models result in an increasing population consuming food out of home that pose the catering service sector at the centre of the European Union policies aimed at improving the environmental sustainability of the food sector. In this framework, better technical knowledge on the environmental impacts of catering service is essential in order to identify potential actions towards a more sustainable food sector. This article presents an environmental assessment of a school catering service operating in Italy and delivering approximately 2,518,128 meals per year. Starting from primary data on the amount of each food consumed in the catering service examined, we perform an environmental analysis of an equivalent meal ready to be consumed in the schools canteens by using the Life Cycle Assessment methodology consistent with ISO 14040 standard. The system boundaries include food and tableware production, food transport, food storage and cooking and waste treatment. Due to a lack of primary data tableware production, food storage, cooking and waste treatment are modelled using literature data or models. The results of the analysis show that the food production phase is relevant to almost all assessed impact categories (contribution higher than 65%). The exception is represented by photochemical oxidation impact categories in which the larger impact is linked to the transportation phase. The environmental impacts associated to the tableware production, food storage and cooking are relevant to global warming and global energy requirement (contributions higher than 7%). The scenario analysis of potential actions aimed at reducing the environmental impacts of the catering service shows that, to obtain a more sustainable food sector, strategies must be implemented along the entire food supply chain and considering a wide range of environmental impact categories.


Food energy consumption; Food supply chain; Institutional catering; Life cycle assessment

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