In our third and final feature exploring the experiences of Churchill students pursuing a summer project outside their academic course, meet fourth year Engineering student Pragash Mohanarajah. Pragash spent last summer working on a project at Churchill College, aimed at reducing food waste.

Pragash’s aim was to tailor the menu options supplied in College halls by devising a method to collect and collate feedback from consumers to inform changes in the weekly menu, which would in turn lead to an improved consumer experience and reduced waste. His project was focused on Churchill College but longer-term could be extended to other catering services.

Pragash’s motivation for the food waste project was driven by his understanding of food poverty in the UK. As he learned from the Felix Project 2023; ‘4.7 million adults in the United Kingdom struggle to afford to eat every day. In fact, 2 million children are at risk of missing their next meal. For comparison, the Food Industry generates 3 million tonnes of surplus food each year.’. Pragash was also motivated by the impact of food waste on the environment, with each kilogram of wasted food generating 8 to 9 kilograms of CO2 emissions. If successful, Pragash realised his project could have a real impact and would also work towards one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; Goal number 12: ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’

According to a study conducted by Blum (2020), around 50% of the food supply to restaurants is wasted. The study estimates that around 4 to 10% of the food supply is wasted in production, and that the remaining 30 to 40% of the food supply is wasted by customers, failing to consume food. By matching the preferences of customers, this project aimed to reduce the food waste in this chain.

The initial idea for the food waste project came out of meetings Pragash attended for another sustainability project led by Churchill Fellow Dr Anna-Maria Kypraiou, working to develop and implement advanced strategies of monitoring and control of energy in the College. The idea was then developed through Pragash’s participation in the Engage for Change programme run by Cambridge Zero, where he met other students who were passionate about the issues relating to climate change and sustainability. Pragash then joined the Churchill College Food Group where he pitched his idea to students and staff members interested in improving the quality of the food at the College. With the support of the Head of Catering, Mr David Oakley, and a Senior Computing officer, Mr David Spaxman, he spent last summer working on developing the platforms needed for the project, with the aim of deploying the tech the following year.

We met with Pragash to find out more!

What did you most enjoy about the project?

I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about my passions. I quickly developed new skills whilst simultaneously building a product with the help of my project supervisors, Dr Anna-Maria Kypraiou and Dr Tashiv Ramsander. I was able to build, develop and integrate new features on a regular basis, which was always exciting. During our weekly meetings, I showcased the work I had been doing, and was always excited to show the new features I had integrated. This experience simulated the real world experience of a working environment, where we iteratively improved our product after each meeting.

What stage has the project reached now?

We have now built a working prototype for a Food Review platform, where individuals can enrol and submit their reviews about the menu items served at a catering service. These reviews are collated and sent as a summary to the catering service, offering them a chance to improve their menus accordingly. Hopefully, an improved menu shall reduce the wastage.

This minimum viable product is the beginning of a future service, which we plan to deploy to other colleges in Cambridge, and other universities across the country. Our goal is to minimise the amount of food wasted at universities and restaurants, by improving the opinions of students about the food offered at their academic institutions.

What are your plans after completing your studies at Churchill?

I will most certainly continue to work on this project. My plan is to improve this project, turning it from a simple web application, into an interactive mobile application. As such, we will attract the usage of many more users, accelerating the popularity of this service.

I have been building other projects throughout my time here, all of which are similar and should be built into a functioning service for future users. I would like to spend more of my time after graduation, building and deploying these projects. I have actively been searching for jobs involving Full Stack Development, and hope to join a job by the end of this year.

How (if at all) has the experience impacted your future career plans?

I have gained lots of Website Development experience through my participation in this project and intend to work in a related field after graduation. Throughout my time at university, I have been building websites for various organizations and student committees. This project introduced me to a new fast-paced environment, guided by mentors and supervisors. It was an opportunity to learn something new, and even applying my skills simultaneously. I cherish it very much, and would love to work in a similar field.

Why do you think funding of this kind is important to have available for Churchill students?

This funding rekindles the creativity of students. It is often very easy for us to remain confined by the limits of the courses we take. By having funding of this kind, students are able to entertain, and often develop their ideas into functioning products through the help of a project supervisor. I think this is an excellent opportunity to build early-stage ideas.

What have you enjoyed most about your time at Churchill?

I have been involved in many student societies and committees, throughout my time at university. Churchill College has offered a calm and collaborative space for everyone to build and expand their early stage ideas into working prototypes. Filled with experts in so many fields, this college has been a place where I could collaborate and learn from some of the greatest minds of our generation. It has been an incredibly enjoyable experience.



Blum, D. DBA (2020) Ways to Reduce Restaurant Industry Food Waste Costs Available at: