MPs urge food industry to increase surplus redistribution

A cross-party group of MPs has urged the Waste & 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 to help eliminate hunger.

The cross-party group of MPs published a report, funded by the Church of England, entitled ‘Feeding Britain’ today (8 December), as part of a parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty.

It found that more than 4 million tonnes of edible food is binned every year by the UK food industry – with just 2% donated to charity.

The report also states that there has been a large rise in the use of food banks in the UK and it calls for a national organisation called Feeding Britain to drive a campaign to end hunger across the UK.

The report states that WRAP has set an ambitious target to reduce food waste by 1.1m tonnes by 2015 through its voluntary Courtauld Commitment. It states that “redistribution is a natural way to achieve this goal” to help “support food assistance providers”.

Waste and surplus redistribution

MPs urge 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 timescale over which it will be achieved, with Feeding Britain.

In response to the report, A WRAP spokesman said: “WRAP is strongly in favour of action that will increase the amount of surplus food that is redistributed, rather than being sent to alternatives that are further down the hierarchy.”

He also applauded the report and said it was an “an excellent contribution to an important debate”.

He added: “WRAP has also confirmed that the redistribution of surplus, edible food will be one of the issues included in the negotiations about to get underway for the new Courtauld 2025 Commitment on reducing waste, which will take effect in 2016.

“Feeding Britain will remain in close contact with WRAP on this matter, and will encourage a substantial increase in the amount of surplus, edible food finding its way to those in need.”

The report also backs calls made by the House of Lords European Union Committee for the Government to introduce tax breaks to encourage supermarkets to donate edible unsold food to food banks rather than sending it to be processed in anaerobic digesters.

New food supplier summit

Elsewhere, the report praises supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose for helping to redistribute usable surplus food to organisations helping people who are hungry.

The report has been published on the same day that Sainsbury’s announced that it will be launching a new food supplier summit that will donate fresh fruit and vegetables directly to charity.

The news comes as the supermarket giant celebrates the 20th anniversary of Fareshare – the food donation network it founded with homelessness charity Crisis. The summit was created and trialled last year with heavyweight fruit and vegetable suppliers including Mack and Thanet Earth, which form part of the Fresca Group, the UK’s largest independent fresh produce supplier.

Sainsbury’s said that more than a million meals of fresh fruit and vegetables have already been donated to charity from the project.

Sainsbury head of sustainability Paul Crewe said: “Sainsbury’s has pioneered retailer food donations for twenty years – including donating food straight from our depots. But we wanted to do even more. By linking in our major suppliers we’ve created an entirely new way to help those who are in need – particularly offering more crucial nutrition through fruit and veg.

“This isn’t about donating a few dented cans – this is a huge process that makes sure even more surplus food that’s fit for human consumption throughout our supply chain gets to people who need it.”

Liz Gyekye

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