Co-op joins FareShare to redistribute surplus food

Co-op joins FareShare to redistribute surplus foodThe Co-operative Food has partnered with food redistribution group FareShare to provide surplus food to charities rather than sending it to anaerobic digestion plants.

From today (14 September), surplus chilled items such as yoghurt, meat, fruit and vegetables will be redistributed and used for meals for vulnerable people across Britain.

The partnership follows a trial at the supermarket’s depot in Castlewood, Derbyshire. Over a 10-week period, 32 tonnes of food were redistributed from the depot, contributing towards 76,192 meals.

The Co-operative estimates that over the course of 2016, its nine depots across the UK could provide 500 tonnes, enough food for ‘over a million meals’.

FareShare provides food for over 2,000 charities and community groups across the UK, including homeless shelters, women’s refuges, breakfast clubs and food banks. In 2014, it says it saved 7,493 tonnes of food from going to waste and helped provide around 16.2 million meals for vulnerable people.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), 200,000 tonnes of food waste is generated annually by the retail industry in the UK. This, it says, accounts for only 1.3 per cent of the total 15 million tonnes of food waste yearly in the country, with half coming from household waste. (Campaigners, however, argue that supermarket policies encourage waste earlier in the food supply chain.)

Deal will bring ‘huge human benefit’

Co-op joins FareShare to redistribute surplus foodSteve Murrells, Chief Executive of Retail at The Co-operative Food, said: “This project has the capacity to improve the variety and nutritional value of the food redistributed by the Co-op, and to significantly increase the number of people that FareShare can support.

“In addition to the huge human benefit there are significant positive environmental impacts as all of this food will be diverted from anaerobic digestion back into the food chain, feeding people first as was intended.”

“Only a tiny percentage of total food waste – around 1.3 per cent – comes from the grocery retail industry [according to the BRC], but we are committed to reducing this. We are very grateful to all the suppliers that have agreed to support this initiative.”

Lindsay Boswell, CEO of FareShare, said: “It’s been fantastic to see how well the new process has worked at Castlewood, helping to provide thousands of meals to vulnerable people in Yorkshire.

“By working with their suppliers, staff and FareShare Regional Centres, The Co-operative has demonstrated real commitment to preventing food waste in the long term and to providing edible surplus food to projects supporting vulnerable people across England, Wales and Scotland.”

Food waste in the retail sector

Announcement of the partnership comes less than a week after a Food Waste (Reduction) Bill was given a second reading by Parliament.

The bill, presented last Wednesday (9 September) by Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, seeks to oblige supermarkets to donate unsold food to charity, reduce food waste by 30 per cent by 2025 and publish all food waste arisings from throughout the supply chain.

It follows the same lines as a French campaign to ban the spoiling of edible food and require all supermarkets of greater than 400 square metres to enter into formal agreements with food redistribution charities.

This was voted into an Energy Transition law in May, but was dropped at the last minute for ‘procedural reasons’. In response, supermarkets agreed last month to a voluntary commitment to redistribute their surplus food.

In June this year, Tesco also announced a partnership with FareShare, and Irish social enterprise FoodCloud, providing store managers in selected pilot stores with a mobile app that allows them to alert nearby charities to the amount of surplus food they have at the end of each day.

The charities can then confirm that they want the food and pick it up free of charge. It is hoped that the scheme will help prevent 30,000 tonnes of edible surplus food from being wasted.

Find out more about FareShare.