FareShare calls for £15m from government to redistribute food

A new campaign by food redistribution charity FareShare wants the government to fund £15 million towards the costs of getting surplus food to those in need.

FareShare calls for £15m from government to redistribute food FareShare is the UK’s largest food redistribution charity, which takes edible surplus from the food industry – food from growers, manufacturers or retailers which cannot be sold, for instance due to oversupply, ‘wonky’ appearance or even simply a labelling error – and gives it to charities and community groups in 1,300 towns and cities.

The latest figures from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) reveal that from the retail and wholesale sectors, 300,000 tonnes of food waste could have been prevented, worth £800 million. For the hospitality and food service industries, the preventable food waste was 700,000 tonnes, equivalent to £2.5 billion. And of the 270,000 tonnes of surplus food in the supply chain, only 17,000 is going to charities, with the rest rotting in fields or being sent to anaerobic digestion despite still being edible.

In a new campaign, #feedpeoplefirst, FareShare has called on the government to set up a £15-million fund to offset the costs of charitable food redistribution. Currently, the charity claims, there is no real incentive for businesses to redistribute their food through FareShare or to other charities, given the costs involved in harvesting, repackaging, transporting and handling the surplus.

If the UK wants to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal to cut food waste in half by 2030, then a focus on moving up the food waste hierarchy to redistribution and away from disposal and recycling will be key. FareShare claims that government assistance could enable an extra 100,000 tonnes of surplus to charities and community groups. Moreover, by providing funding to cover the costs of redistribution, the government could save charities £150 million.

Commenting on the campaign, FareShare’s Chief Executive Lindsay Boswell, who placed in the top ten of Resource’s Hot 100 list of influencers in the waste and resources industry, said: “It’s completely wrong that we have a situation where it’s cheaper to send thousands of tonnes of good edible food to anaerobic digestion plants or to animal feed, when there are millions of people experiencing food insecurity and regularly skipping meals across the UK right now.

FareShare calls for £15m from government to redistribute food
'Wonky' veg can often be thrown out by growers and supermarkets despite being edible
“FareShare redistributes just five per cent of the available surplus food, but with that we help feed half a million people a week – so just imagine what we could do with 100,000 tonnes. This is what France already does, and we know we can do it here too. We have the capacity, we know more charities want us to help them – we just need the government to help us access the food.”

Another barrier to redistribution is the confusion around ‘use by’ and ’best before’ labelling on products, which leads retailers to throw out still-edible food instead of sending it for redistribution. Businesses have called for food labels to be standardised worldwide by 2020, while WRAP published new industry guidance on labelling in November last year, after a survey revealed that four times as much food could be redistributed than is currently. The guidance states that ‘use by’ labels should only be used on foods with a proven short shelf life, with ‘best before’ dates generally preferable.

Some supermarkets have begun making voluntary commitments to cut down on food waste, with the Courtauld Commitment 2025 bringing together businesses including Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco to work towards a 20 per cent reduction in food and drink waste by 2025. Tesco, the first UK retailer to publish its food waste data, pledged in December last year that it would end all edible food waste from its stores by March 2018 – though there has been no news as to whether this goal has been achieved, the company did reveal that surplus food redistribution rose by 148 per cent in 2016/17.

In February this year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) also launched a £500,000 Food Waste Reduction Fund for organisations working to increase the redistribution of surplus food.

For more information about FareShare’s campaign, and to sign the petition before 3 May 2018, visit the charity’s website.