Women’s Institute lobbies supermarkets to cut food waste

The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) has launched a new campaign focusing on fighting food waste and food poverty, titled ‘Food Matters’.

The campaign is calling on supermarkets to introduce measures to reduce food waste and pass on surplus food to charities and community organisations. The NFWI has produced a detailed report exploring ways in which supermarkets are contributing to the food waste problem, and how they can become part of the solution.

Though it acknowledges that supermarkets account for a relatively small percentage of food waste in the UK, the report goes on to note that supermarkets have significant influence on multiple facets of the supply and consumption chains including farmers, consumers and suppliers through practices such as date labelling and strict grading systems preventing ‘wonky’ or ‘misshapen’ produce making it into stores.

WI members responded to two surveys providing individual member views on issues such as multi-buy offers and date labelling and asking members to visit their local supermarkets to investigate store practices.

Amongst the survey results, the report found that 55 per cent of respondents were confused over the meaning of best before date labels, 35 per cent of own-brand products sampled had a different ‘once-opened’ life when compared with a branded equivalent, and 75 per cent of supermarkets offered multi-buys on fresh produce, encouraging overbuying.

Women’s Institute lobbies supermarkets to cut food wasteThe NFWI is calling on supermarkets to take action to end overbuying, extend product life of foods in the home, fully utilise the farm crop and provide greater transparency on food waste, offering practical suggestions as to how this can be achieved such as enabling shoppers to buy loose products so they don’t have to buy more than they need, and introducing more widely available innovative packaging for items such as cheese. 

The NFWI was founded in 1915 and is the largest voluntary women’s membership organisation in the UK. The 220,000-strong organisation has a record of campaigning and educating the public on a range of issues. 

While the first stage of the campaign aims to address food waste, the second stage will look more closely at food poverty and ways to combat this across the UK.

Along with the report, the NFWI has created a Food Manifesto (right), offering ways in which supermarkets can alter their retail practices to help consumers reduce food waste. Practices include: offering deals on multi-buys and multipacks that encourage overbuying and confusing date and product labelling, resulting in consumers throwing away food sometimes unnecessarily.

A campaign pack is also available to members, explaining the survey findings and ways members can get involved in the campaign.

Between 19 and 21 May, the NFWI will be holding a food waste ‘weekend of action’, encouraging WIs to get involved by presenting a copy of the Food Manifesto to their local supermarkets and drawing attention to the campaign through hosting events and taking part innovative, food related activities and stunts.

The fight against food waste

Earlier this year, WRAP produced a survey that estimated £1 billion of food waste could be prevented through changes to labelling and food packaging.

Global food waste coalition Champions 12.3 released a report in March this year, suggesting businesses could save an average of $14 for every $1 spent on reducing food waste, demonstrating the huge potential impact of investing in food waste reduction measures.  

Further information about the campaign can be found on the NFWI website, and the report can be downloaded here.

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