The Neighbourly initiative is designed to help communities connect with companies through local charitable, environmental and social enterprise projects.

Lidl has launched a national food distribution programme, which it hopes will enable all of its British stores to collectively donate the equivalent of two million meals a year to charities. The first 100 Lidl stores will be fully active by the end of June, with an ambition to have all stores participating by summer 2018.

“This new partnership provides a great opportunity for us to make a real, positive contribution to the communities that we operate in,” Lidl UK head of corporate social responsibility Daniela Tulip said.

The German supermarket has also become the first retailer to sign up to Neighbourly’s #FundaFridge Campaign, donating more than 100 fridges and freezers to projects that struggle with storage for the food donations that they receive. 

“Crucially, we are able to help improve charities’ ability to safely store food through the donation of fridges and freezers, which will increase their capacity to sustainably manage surplus food and, in turn, provide more meals for those who need them,” Tulip added.

‘Holistic solution’

The national rollout comes after a successful eight-week pilot scheme with stores in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, which helped to feed more than 3,400 people across community projects.

The announcement follows Lidl UK’s signing of the Courtauld Commitment 2025 last year. The retailer has pledged to collectively reduce food waste by a fifth and double the amount of food redistributed to 30,000 tonnes in the next four years. Signatories of the Commitment have agreed to double the amount of surplus food that is redistributed across the UK

Neighbourly founder Nick Davies commented: “Using Neighbourly means that those most in need do not face the additional pressure of having to pay to have food surplus donations delivered.

“As we’ve seen with the success of the pilot programme with Lidl, if adopted widely, this model could change how the supermarket industry deals with the redistribution of surplus food and provide a more holistic solution for community partners.”

Global leadership

Lidl joins a growing list of business to have signed up to Neighbourly to redistribute food surplus to good causes. Dutch brewer Heineken joined last March to support its responsible business strategy and deliver positive local impacts through its seven sites across the UK. Through the site, Marks & Spencer (M&S) has been able to find more than 500 local charities that will accept unsold food from the company.

The partnerships reflect increasingly innovative efforts by retailers to address the food waste issue – from innovative food waste apps to redistribution campaigns. These schemes are key to helping the UK maintain its global leadership on food waste, which according to World Resource Institute’s (WRI) director Liz Goodwin, is in danger of weakening.

Indeed, figures released this month show that, while the UK’s major retailers and manufacturers have generated huge financial savings in food waste initiatives, progress to reduce household food waste has stalled in recent years. 

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie