Preventing food waste has become an important priority for the food and drink industry, the government and the general public. And with good reason – more than 10 million tonnes of food are wasted in the UK each year.
A huge proportion of this food waste is simply surplus. Over-production, label errors and short shelf lives on seasonal stock all add to the mountain. Growers, manufacturers and retailers can all have a surplus of food. It is usually in date, good quality and edible, yet it ends up being thrown away.
Thankfully, there is huge potential for redistributing this surplus food. Which is a win-win for everyone by tackling both food waste and hunger. Because whilst so much food is being wasted, there is also a growing issue of food poverty across the nation. We have people of all ages and backgrounds, struggling to get enough to eat.
Rescuing excess food helps to ensure it goes to good use and helps those most in need.
There are now an increasing number of organisations across the UK who are either redistributing surplus food to help vulnerable people or using surplus food to create new products and services. Here’s our round-up of some of the non-profits and social enterprises who are reusing and redistributing surplus food.
Non-Profitable Organisations Using Food to Nourish, Connect and Educate
Working alongside over 6,000 UK charities, FareShare redistribute nutritious, fresh food that would otherwise go to waste. They help any organisation or community project who use food to make a difference to people’s lives, from homeless hostels and refugee centres to children’s breakfast clubs.
Last year they gave out 13,552 tonnes of food, enough for 28.6 million meals.
Over 1,000 community meals a week are served up by FoodCycle for the hungry and lonely. Using reclaimed surplus food, they unite and nourish communities through healthy meals.
They have so far saved 265 tonnes of food, helping to reduce food poverty in some of the most deprived areas of the UK.
But it isn’t just about the food. They also help to strengthen communities and encourage friendships by bringing people together.
Volunteers at the Felix Project collect fresh surplus food from suppliers and sort it to meet the needs of different charities. They then deliver the produce to local kitchens, schools, community halls and day centres.
Healthy meals are created from this surplus and provided to disadvantaged adults and children across London.
The Real Junk Food Project
Working with both local and international partners, The Real Junk Food Project intercepts surplus food destined for landfill and redistributes it.
The excess food is then given a second chance through a network of ‘Pay As You Feel’ cafes, pop-ups, events, share-houses and school market stalls.
By connecting charities and community projects with local stores who have surplus food, Neighbourly has already distributed over two million meals with their award-winning food surplus scheme.
This perishable food rescue operation is on a mission to end hunger and food waste. They tackle both with education and the redistribution of excess food. Using refrigerated vans, UK Harvest collect quality surplus food from a variety of suppliers. These include fruit and vegetable markets, supermarkets, hotels and sports stadiums. This food is then redistributed it to a number of charities that help the vulnerable.
UK Harvest also spreads awareness of food waste, security and sustainability, as well as providing a framework for the rescue of surplus food that can be replicated.
Social Enterprises Turning Wasted Food into Tasty Food
With a more “business-like” approach, social enterprises are slightly different from non-profits. They generally have different financing and purpose. Whether for profit or not, a social enterprise will engage in some form of commercial trade rather than rely on funding.
Both non-profits and social enterprises cater to a good cause, but the profits are used differently. The surplus revenue made in a non-profit organisation is used towards a social issue as a part of their purpose. Excess funds in a social enterprise is used to grow the business or towards furthering a cause.
Here are several exciting social enterprises using food surplus to create something new.
Elysia Catering have created a sustainable and affordable way to afford delicious artisan food. They rescue high quality, local surplus food and create appetising breakfasts and canapés. These are then made available for delivery to offices in London.
With a delicious zero waste menu, Tiny Leaf was London’s first organic vegan restaurant. They are now branching out into events, festivals and private parties. They use surplus food to creates mouth watering dishes sourced only from local food suppliers, farms, supermarkets, plant breeders, retailers and distributors.
Around a third of fresh produce is wasted due to strict supermarket specifications regarding shape, size, colour and blemishes, as well as over production. OddBox saves the wonky fruit and vegetables from local growers, boxes them up and delivers to homes. Consumers can order fresh, seasonal produce for 30% less than regular prices, and rescue surplus produce at the same time.
As fresh bakery goods are one of the most wasted items, DayOld has taken the opportunity to collect these delicious surplus treats from artisan bakeries in London and redistribute them through office pop-ups, treat boxes and special event catering.
Snact has developed a unique way of using surplus fruit and vegetables by creating fruit jerky. These wholesome snacks are delicious and packed with nutrition. Plus they are made from surplus food that would otherwise go to waste. Even the farmers benefit through Snact as they now have a buyer for their excess fruit!
Non-profit or social enterprise, there is one thing all these organisations have in common – they are all joining the fight against food waste by giving excess food a second chance.
If food waste is something you feel strongly about, check out our Ultimate Guide to Food Waste. Download and make a difference.