Unfortunately, the amount of food going to landfill in the UK is astonishing. The UK throws away around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in a single year – even though 8.4 million people in the UK are in food poverty.
Billions of pounds are wasted each year when food is disposed of unnecessarily.
Food distribution schemes
Luckily for the UK, there are lots of food redistribution charities around that utilise surplus food and one of the biggest is called Fareshare.
Most large food organisations (could be a grower, a manufacturer or a retailer’s distribution centre) donate their surplus food to Fareshare and this is then supplied to causes, groups and charities who become Fareshare Go members or sign up to the Fareshare Membership.
Fareshare Membership is where causes/charities order food weekly from Fareshare warehouses to sell in social supermarkets, provides meals at community eating etc. Fareshare Go is where surplus food is picked up by causes at local stores on a day-to-day basis.
There is no charge for food from Fareshare Membership but there could be a delivery cost if large quantities are required by the groups. Fareshare operates using a huge number of volunteers for their driving and warehousing.
Many large retailers provide bulk food to Fareshare from their distribution centres but may also have local food redistribution programmes. Co-op have one called Food Share where local causes, charities and groups can apply to pick surplus food up daily at Food Share. Co-op, Tesco and Asda use Fareshare Go, and Marks & Spencer, Lidl and Aldi use Neighbourly.
2020/2021 was Fareshare’s biggest year. They helped 10,542 charities and community groups and 1,108,064 people were provided food supplied by Fareshare. The food they redistributed contributed towards 131.9 million meals and saved the charity sector £18.5 million.
Spreading the word of this available food is crucial. Small groups local to you could be buying full price food and struggling with the costs of this. Furthermore, ensuring this surplus food is used reduces landfill amounts.
On another note, if you are an individual and are happy to receive surplus food from restaurants and shops, you can sign up for apps such as Too Good to Go or Olio. I am sure that there are many more around in different locations.
What can be done to reduce food waste?
Groups and causes can apply for all of the above and pick up from multiple stores to re-distribute or even sell it for a small charge. Many examples of surplus food being sold could be at social supermarkets, food clubs, community eating projects – the funds could then support emergency food parcels or costs for running premises. Typically, social supermarkets sell a basket of food for under £5, and community eating projects could provide a meal for free or a small donation – it is all about redistributing the food for maximum effect.
Unfortunately, it’s estimated that around 60% of food waste in the UK comes from the home which is a bit more difficult to manage. As a consumer, the main things to remember are:
- Ensuring that your food storage is correct – use your freezer
- Understanding use by/best before labels and use your nose to smell check
- Meal planning before shopping so you only buy what you need
- Batch cooking
And remember if you do need to dispose of food waste think about composting, animal feed and local council initiatives.
Here are some useful articles from around the Bylines Network on cutting down your food bill and waste:
- Savvy tips for cutting your food bill – East Anglia Bylines
- Food prices will get worse but we can do things better – Yorkshire Bylines
- Simple steps to cut food waste… and avert climate crisis – Sussex Bylines
- Breaking Bread Together: Community Food Initiatives – West England Bylines