Food surplus redistribution

While so many people are going hungry, it cannot be right that thousands of tonnes of good quality, healthy edible food is wasted.

Currently, a huge amount of surplus food is thrown away in food production, manufacturing and retail. This is food that is high quality and perfectly edible- it may be rejected because it is cosmetically imperfect, errors in the labelling or packaging, or simply because it has been over ordered in the system. Much of this food ends up in landfill or sent to anaerobic digestion.

We want to see more of this food being rescued and being used to feed people. Many of the projects we work with use surplus food to ensure people have access to a healthy and nutritious diet, such as our Citizens’ Supermarkets and Holiday Clubs.

At a national level, we are working with expert partners to identify and promote the policies that can incentivise the redistribution of more surplus food for dignified human consumption. We are also working with companies and other stakeholders to help unlock some of the barriers to food surplus redistribution, and to provide practical opportunities for food producers, manufacturers and retailers to do more.

If you are a company and would like to work with Feeding Britain to ensure your surplus food goes to people who need it, please see involve your Business, or contact us.

Supermarket systems

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that supermarkets begin experimenting in other ways to meet the need for fresh food. Tesco, for example, a pioneer in this field of combating hunger, adds 30% to any food given by its shoppers to food banks. The Inquiry would like to see Tesco experiment with using some of this subsidy to include the recycling of fresh food. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Retailers should consider how technology might enable them to make better use of their surplus food. FareShare’s ‘FoodCloud’ app, for instance, enables local branches to connect with local charitable groups and advertise good quality surplus to them quickly. Food banks can then respond by text message and arrange to collect food (6 months on)

We recommend that supermarkets, on top of their incredibly important partnerships with Trussell Trust and FareShare, allow both national organisations as well as independent groups operating on a local level to collect locally based surplus food from their stores (Route Map)

Progress to Date In progress

The APPG has written to each supermarket asking whether they might top slice a small sum of this 30% supplement from the National Food Collection to pay for the distribution of a small number of vouchers via food banks that enable people in need to obtain fresh fruit and vegetables in their store.

So far this recommendation has not been taken up by any of the major supermarkets. However, we welcome the initiative taken by Tesco and FareShare to launch the FoodCloud app to facilitate the redistribution of fresh food.

APPG Recommendation

We also recommend that other supermarkets follow this example through their collection arrangements with food banks, and reward entrepreneurial skills of staff by allowing their stores a degree of flexibility so that they can imaginatively meet local needs. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

We are pleased that most supermarkets do now allow their stores a degree of local flexibility in a way which does not impinge upon their national contracts. We wish for this policy of flexibility to be communicated clearly to individual store managers so they can proactively approach voluntary groups in their local community with the offer of food and support.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that each of Britain’s major supermarkets should consider using the proceeds from their plastic bag charges to support the diversion to the hungry of fresh food that has become surplus (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

As far as we know this recommendation has not been taken up. While many retailers have used the plastic bag charge to benefit charity partners, it has not been regularly earmarked for projects that address hunger.

APPG Recommendation

Each of Britain’s major supermarkets should appoint a ‘Food Rescue Champion’ in each store to take responsibility for the diversion of surplus stock to the hungry. (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

We are aware of Community Champions being appointed in some stores to support the redistribution of surplus food.

Incentives for redistribution

APPG Recommendation

We believe it is indefensible that huge numbers of people are going hungry in a country that wastes such vast quantities of food that is fit for consumption. We urge the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to set food retailers and manufacturers a target of doubling the proportion of surplus food they redistribute to food assistance providers and other voluntary organisations and to agree this target, and the timescales over which it will be achieved, with Feeding Britain. This very important target would save the voluntary sector £160 million over the next Parliament. We believe a long-term objective should be to minimise the amount of surplus food in this country, while ensuring that of this falling surplus progressively more is used by the third sector. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

We recommend that the food industry as a whole should set itself a target, built up from its constituent parts, of reducing the amount of food disposed of in landfill, and turned into compost or energy, by 100,000 tonnes each year by the end of the next Parliament. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

We acknowledge the steps WRAP has taken to prioritise the redistribution of good quality surplus food to groups working with people in need. However, the APPG believes a target for retailers and manufacturers, at a minimum, of doubling the amount of good quality surplus food that is redistributed is achievable and should be pursued. The Chair of the APPG has written to WRAP suggesting regional analysis to identify the amount of surplus redistributed in different parts of the country.

In 2018 the Government has announced the new Food Waste Reduction Fund. This Fund, administered through WRAP, will support local projects to increase the amount of surplus food redistributed in communities.

APPG Recommendation

We also support calls made by the House of Lords European Union Committee for the Government to introduce financial incentives in Britain so as to divert more fit-for-consumption surplus food from landfill and Anaerobic Digestion to voluntary organisations serving meals to people. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

The Government so far has rejected this recommendation.

APPG Recommendation

The Treasury should consider running a three-month consultation on two options: first, to divert existing monies from anaerobic digestion or some of the proceeds from the Landfill Tax to incentivise the redistribution of surplus food, and second, if necessary, to legislate against food waste. (6 months on)

Progress to Date Pending

This recommendation has not been enacted.

APPG Recommendation

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) should set food retailers and manufacturers a target of doubling the proportion of surplus food they redistribute to groups working with those in need and reducing the amount of food disposed of in landfill, and turned into compost or energy, by 100,000 tonnes each year by the end of this Parliament. (6 months on)

Progress to Date Pending

Despite some welcome progress on this front, the recommendation has not been enacted.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Government should consult on a series of moves to reorder existing subsidies, at nil extra cost, in favour of rescuing edible surplus food for human consumption. As part of this consultation, the Government should seek views on whether a small amount of expenditure currently allocated towards incentivising anaerobic digestion should be diverted towards establishing a start-up fund for local communities wishing to rescue more fresh food that has become surplus so it can be diverted to the hungry (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

We are not aware of any progress having been made

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Government should consult also on a series of targeted tax incentives to encourage supermarkets and manufacturers to transport their surplus stock of fresh food to charities (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

The Government has confirmed that tax rebates are available for companies redirecting good quality surplus food to charity. It appears, however, that there is limited awareness of this among companies.

Local food redistribution systems

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that Local Authorities offer surplus storage space to food banks and other charitable providers of food before it can be sold, so as to house chillers and other refrigerated equipment (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

We would welcome examples of good practice and support from Local Authorities. Feeding Britain will work with local pilots network to identify and share examples of good practice.

APPG Recommendation

In areas where this might not be feasible, we recommend that networks of foodbanks and other charitable providers of food approach their LA with a request to establish a central food storage point along the lines pioneered by the Oxford Food Bank. Where this is not forthcoming, we call on LAs to identify members of the community who are able to spare the time and a reliable vehicle to replicate such models, by providing them with a central storage point and a small start up grant. The Big Lottery Fund might wish to consider what help it can extend to such models. (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

We would welcome examples of good practice and support from Local Authorities. Feeding Britain will work with local pilots network to identify and share examples of good practice.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that each regional manager of Britain’s major food retailers and manufacturers should arrange for chillers and other refrigeration equipment to be donated to [community food redistribution projects] following a store refit (RouteMap, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

We would welcome examples of good practice and support from Local Authorities. In Feeding Birkenhead, offer of refrigeration equipment for the new Citizens’ Supermarket have been received from Iceland, M&S and Farm Foods for the Citizens Supermarket

Local food production

APPG Recommendation

We believe that by encouraging the production and retail of local grown food, Local Authorities can play a key role in addressing the lack of access to affordable food in deprived areas. Success in establishing local networks will require Local Authorities amongst other things having the willingness to work with local food organisations to free up land for food production, retail and storage, as and when resources are available. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

Limited progress has been made on this front, although Wirral Council as part of the Feeding Birkenhead project is reviewing the availability of allotment space and other areas in which food might be grown for home consumption or other purposes. Feeding Bristol is taking steps to support markets for local food production. Leicester City Council have funded a series of local food growing schemes and are looking at how these can be adapted to contribute to addressing food poverty in the city. Successful schemes have been established in Lambeth using land owned by GP surgeries for food growing, which is being developed by the Lambeth GP Food Coop.

Redistribution of non food surplus

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that each airport makes contact with its local food bank to offer them unopened non-alcoholic drinks, toothpaste, shower gels and other hygiene products that are confiscated during security checks (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

Some encouraging examples have been received from airports around the UK, which are documented in the Not So Hidden Hunger report.

A case study of the partnership between Stansted Airport and Harlow Food Bank is available on the Feeding Britain website. Accessing surplus goods confiscated at check-in allowed the food bank to redistribute an additional 5.73 tonnes per year of non-perishable food, toiletries, and personal items to individuals and families in need. Feeding Britain will write to pilots with airports in their areas to see how this could be replicated elsewhere.

Barriers to food surplus redistribution

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Food Standards Authority produces a one-page guidance sheet on the safe handling and preparation of food that has been recycled from supermarkets’ and manufacturers’ surplus stocks, and this should be included within the national portal [on Holiday Provision]. (Hungry Holidays, April 2017)

Progress to Date In progress

Feeding Britain provided evidence to a consultation launched by WRAP and the FSA in 2017 on draft guidance for charities involved in food surplus redistribution, to help build capacity and overcome current barriers faced, particularly by smaller charities. We anticipate that a simple, shorter version of the guidance will be developed, aimed at local community food projects.

APPG Recommendation

The APPG discovered that thousands of army rations packs become surplus each year, due to operational changes. In 2016/2017, 14,273 out of date ration packs were withdrawn from use and disposed of in line with current food safety legislation and guidelines by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Progress to Date In progress

The APPG and Feeding Britain called on the Ministry of Defence to permit the redistribution of surplus army ration
packs to the destitute homeless. In its initial response, the Ministry of Defence cited food safety reasons as to why this would not be possible. However, Feeding Britain then followed up with a note from the Food Standards Agency which made clear that issues around food safety could be overcome.

The MOD has stated that ‘work is being undertaken to consider the merits of providing surplus Operational Ration Packs to homeless people while still complying with the Ministry of Defence's gifting policy and current Food Safety legislation. In March 2018, in response to a Parliamentary Question, the MOD confirmed the Department is ‘reviewing its storage and disposal policy for ration packs’. In April 2018 the Defence Secretary ordered urgent advice on whether ration packs approaching the end of their shelf life can be handed to charities or good causes.