Defra food waste reduction fund opens for applications

Resource Minister Therese Coffey announced yesterday that Defra will open a £500,000 Food Waste Reduction Fund to organisations working to increase the redistribution of surplus food in England.

The fund is being administered by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which is asking for applications for expressions of interest from not-for-profit organisations to outline their proposals demonstrating how they will work with food businesses, retailers and manufacturers to redistribute surplus food.

Coffey launched the fund at a conference for WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment 2025 - a voluntary agreement to bring together representatives of the food system to reduce food and drink waste by 20 per cent by 2025.Defra food waste reduction fund opens for applications

Grants are expected to range from £20,000 to £75,000 and will be aimed at not-for-profit organisations that redirect surplus food from food businesses to charities providing meals for people in need.

Peter Maddox, Director of WRAP, said: “We’re particularly looking for new routes and fresh partnerships to get more surplus food to people in need. I’m keen to see expressions of interest that will increase redistribution from food manufacturers and businesses not already redistributing food, or which can significantly improve and increase existing redistribution chains.

“We want this fund to be a step-change in the amount of surplus food that is redistributed to people.”

Barriers to change

WRAP estimates that 10 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK (including households, hospitality and foodservice, food manufacturers, retail, and wholesale), 60 per cent of which is avoidable. But it says this could be increased four-fold over a 10-year period, saving an extra 270 million meals a year in the UK.

Food charities in the past have reported that efforts to redistribute surplus food have been held back due to a number of obstacles, such as the lack of infrastructure and storage facilities like refrigeration units required to safely transport and store meat and dairy, or confusing ‘best before’ dates on food packaging that lead retailers to throw out food when it is still safely edible instead of marking it for redistribution.

The new funding could be spent on projects to ease these obstacles such as training for the people involved in supplying and distributing surplus food, increasing storage infrastructure, facilitating partnerships between retailers and not-for-profits and improving communications and technology to ease logistical issues between donors and recipients.

WRAP suggests that applicants should outline how the funding will be used to increase the amount of surplus food redistributed, or how it overcomes a specific barrier to better redistribution.

Expressions of interest need to be emailed to WRAP by 30 March where a panel will make an assessment of the plan, and if successful it will be shortlisted for a full application to be submitted before 11 May.

Food waste still on the menu

It is easy to forget that, amongst the surge of interest in plastics (and rightly so), food waste remains a critical waste stream, and one that requires continued attention.

Movement on some of the issues raised above began to gain momentum at the end of last year. The Courtauld Commitment 2025 annual review revealed that 24 organisations joined the voluntary agreement in 2016/17, bringing the total number of signatories up to 156, demonstrating the food industry’s desire to tackle the issue of food waste, while retailers moved closer to agreeing to a ‘series of principles’ regarding a common methodology for the reporting of food waste.

Furthermore, it seems as if the direction of travel on food packaging labeling is moving towards simplification, with WRAP announcing new guidance in November 2017 on food packaging labeling, while The Consumer Goods Forum (CFG) and Champions 12.3 - a coalition of more than three dozen leaders across government, business and civil society dedicated to accelerating progress towards the third target of the twelfth SDG to cut food waste by half by 2030 - issued a call to action to simplify and standardize food date labels worldwide by 2020 in a bid to reduce food waste.

More information on applying for the Food Waste Reduction Fund can be found on the WRAP website.

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