More than 3.6 million tonnes of food is wasted each year, as it is often cheaper for farmers, growers and producers to let food rot in the ground or convert it to animal feed than it is to redistribute it if supermarkets don’t want it.
Consequently, over two million tonnes of edible produce are thrown away annually. And this is happening at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is driving more people into poverty and an estimated five million adults and two million children in the UK are struggling to get enough to eat.
Providing quality food to those in need often falls to charities that are working with the vulnerable and disadvantaged in society. FareShare UK takes good-to-eat surplus produce from across the food industry and redistributes it to those who need it through a network of 10,500 charities.
In 2019-20, after reckoning that food producers might be more willing to pass on their surplus food to FareShare if they could recover the costs of keeping it safe for human consumption and transporting it, the charity successfully lobbied the government to establish a pilot fund. Defra stumped up £1.9m and the WRAP Foundation another £1m, and FareShare set up its Surplus with Purpose fund.
As well as compensating scheme members for costs and any losses, FareShare’s expert food team offers advice and site visits to work with producers to identify waste in their systems.
During the nine-month pilot, FareShare redistributed an additional 4,447 tonnes of food. Two years on, more than 300 food producers have now signed up for the scheme and some supermarkets are either working with it directly or have launched their own version of it with their own suppliers. Surplus with Purpose now accounts for more than two-thirds of all food that FareShare diverts.
Despite the Defra funding coming to an end, FareShare aims to significantly expand the scheme to work with more businesses and is lobbying the government for a new £5m grant to help continue the programme.
Charity Awards judge Ruth Davison said: “There is a really strong triple bottom line here; they’re saving food waste, they’re supporting local charities and they’re influencing corporate behaviour. So that felt like three sets of impact out of one initiative.”
Judge Sarah Ellis considered the programme to be “grassroots-up, entrepreneurial, innovative and making change at different layers across the sector. It punched above its weight.”
CC Reg no. 1100051