M&S extends food redistribution scheme to chilled food

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has announced that chilled food be added to its national food redistribution scheme which connects the retailer's stores to local food charities and community groups.

Items such as meat, dairy products and ready meals will be added to the fruit and veg, bread, cakes, groceries, dry packaged goods and tins already donated by M&S in partnership with social media platform Neighbourly.

Following a pilot launch at Christmas, 130 M&S stores have begun redistributing surplus chilled food to their local charities. The retailer will review the extension at the end of May with a view to roll out to further stores where the charity partner has the approved infrastructure in place.

M&S Plan A head of responsible sourcing, packaging Louise Nicholls said: “Addressing food waste is a key area of focus for M&S and we have been working hard to reduce food waste whilst ensuring that, where there is food surplus, we put it to the best possible use.

“Over the last year our partnership with Neighbourly has allowed us to connect our stores to local food projects and help support our local communities. By extending our food surplus scheme to include chilled food we’ll be able to go even further in helping charities support those in need with safe and nutritious food.”

‘Good for the soul’

As part of its Plan A target to reduce food waste by 20% by 2020, M&S has already donated 1.25 million meals to 595 food charities across the UK and Northern Ireland. M&S was recently given ‘assured advice’ from Westminster City Council, its primary authority, that it is satisfied with the safety procedures the retailer has in place for the chilled food donations.

Neighbourly has provided logistical support to help redistribute surplus products, ensuring that all registered charities have the correct food hygiene credentials, as well as refrigeration to transport and store chilled food. The social network has collaborated with a host of supermarket chains to commit to surplus food donation, most recently Lidl.

“People often under-estimate how determined companies like M&S are to help protect the planet and the communities they serve,” Neighbourly founder Nick Davies said. “For 10 years now the Plan A initiative has guided behind-the scenes efforts to tackle climate change, source sustainably and reduce waste whilst never compromising safety or the customer experience.

“Their request for help with chilled food is just the latest step in an ambitious journey and Neighbourly is delighted to assist – it’s good for society, good for business and good for the soul.”

Collective ambition

WRAP estimates that approximately 47,000 tonnes of surplus food – the equivalent of 90 million meals – is currently being redistributed to feed people in the UK every year. Courtauld 2025 signatories, which include the UK’s top supermarket chains, have displayed collective ambition to double the amount of surplus food that is redistributed across the UK by 2020.

Potentially able to generate £60m a year through the voluntary drive, more than 60 million additional meals could be generated and retailers have already taken steps to accelerate this movement. Founding Courtauld signatory Waitrose, for instance, recently revealed it will trial Fareshare’s FoodCloud platform in order to slash at food waste figures, and redistribute unsold, surplus food to local charities.

The partnership was announced just days after Tesco reached a landmark moment in its partnership with FareShare. Under the Community Food Connection, which was launched in February last year, Tesco has helped serve five million meals to more than 3,300 community groups. The scheme is currently embedded at more than 900 Tesco stores and, following a nationwide rollout, will soon be available in 1,800 stores.

George Ogleby

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