New figures from the UK’s largest food redistribution charity, FareShare, reveal that just 17,000 tonnes of the 270,000 tonnes of edible surplus food in the supply chain is redistributed annually to charities.

FareShare wants ministers to create a level playing field for food waste, ending the inequality of the current system where producers and farmers bear the costs of sorting and transporting surplus food for human consumption.

The public is being asked to support FareShare’s new Feed People First campaignby signing a parliamentary petition calling on the government to introduce a £15m fund to cover transport and storage costs for surplus food. At 100,000 signatures, the subject will be considered for debate in parliament.

FareShare currently redistributes about 13,500 tonnes of surplus food every year to nearly 7,000 charities including hospices, homeless shelters, care homes and women’s refuges (including a record amount last Christmas) but its annual target is 100,000 tonnes. Demand for surplus food has soared against a background of growing dependence on food banks and rising homelessness in the UK.

FareShare says it has the capacity – and a waiting list of charities wanting help – but needs access to more food. Its solution is a government fund that would cover the costs of storage and transport. Available to any charity or producer that incurs the costs of redistributing food, it would also save charities and other beneficiaries £150m by making free food available to them.

“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,” said FareShare chief executive, Lindsay Boswell.

The bulk of food waste in the UK comes from households, making up 71% of the total. But manufacturing contributes 17% and hospitality and food service 9%. Seasonal weather fluctuations, order cancellations and overstocking – all unpredictable – create surplus food which manufacturers, distributors and farms were not always in a position to redistribute.

Environment ministers are understood to have held informal discussions about giving farmers and food producers financial incentives to encourage them to get waste food onto tables. But FareShare says these need to lead to a level playing field so it’s not cheaper to waste food or turn it into animal feed or energy.

Rebecca Smithers

This article first appeared on the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network

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