Defra opens £5m food redistribution fund

Defra opens £5m food redistribution fund
Volunteers with food redistribution charity Fareshare
The first round of government funding has opened for food redistribution organisations across the UK.

Charities and companies that work to facilitate the redistribution of surplus food from producers and retailers to people in need are being asked to get their bids in for a share of £5 million.

With around 100,000 tonnes of edible and easily accessible food going to waste every year, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), there is an urgent need to improve redistribution so that this food finds its way to people in need rather than going to incinerators, anaerobic digestion or being turned into animal feed.

The £5-million pot is part of the wider £15-million food waste reduction scheme that was launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in October 2018. This is added to a £500,000 fund opened in February 2018, which offered grants of up to £75,000 to not-for-profit food redistribution companies.

Thérèse Coffey, Resources Minister at Defra, commented: “It is absolutely right that we end the scandal of food waste and this substantial funding will help that happen.

“We want to build on the great work already being done by businesses, charities and volunteers. Perfectly good food should be on people’s plates and not unnecessarily discarded.”

Commitments in the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, which was published at the end of last year, place significant emphasis on addressing the problem of food waste in the UK, which Environment Secretary Michael Gove referred to as “morally indefensible”.

Defra opens £5m food redistribution fund
'Wonky' but edible veg like those sold by Lidl can still be rejected by producers or supermarkets and end up wasted
At the end of last year, a new Food Surplus and Waste Champion was appointed, an unpaid role hoping to act as a driver behind some of the ambitions in the Strategy. Philanthropist Ben Elliot was appointed to the position and he will be focusing first of all on ensuring the implementation and success of the £15-million fund.

Looking at food waste more widely, the Resources and Waste Strategy also proposes the introduction of mandatory separate collections of food waste across all local authorities by 2023, a proposal that was welcomed by industry as a means to improve councils’ recycling rates and reduce waste to landfill.

The government will also be consulting on the mandatory reporting of food waste for businesses of a certain size. Many businesses in the UK are beginning to take voluntary steps on food waste, for instance through measures such as the sale of ‘wonky veg’ at reduced prices – but reporting on levels of waste remains patchy, with some supermarkets only just beginning to publish their figures.

However, September last year saw the launch of the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, an initiative aiming to encourage businesses to set targets and report their wastage publicly. As of December, 94 organisations have signed up, including all the main supermarkets in the UK as well as a wide range of producers, hospitality and food service businesses and trade bodies.

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