Surplus food as a sustainable solution
By Lucy Bearn
Lucy Bearn, Head of Food and Logistics at FareShare South West, writes the latest Bristol Bites Back Better blog post about how Fareshare are helping Bristol and South West businesses #BiteBackBetter when it comes to their surplus.
Bristol has long been a city that cares about how food is used and distributed, particularly considering the most vulnerable citizens. I’m proud to live and work in Bristol because of this outlook but also because of the numerous organisations who work to make sure that good food gets to those in need, while also ensuring food is not wasted. As Head of Food and Logistics at FareShare South West, the region’s largest food redistribution charity, I see first-hand the impact that good-quality surplus food can have in our communities. The opportunity to join the city’s Food Waste Action Group as representative of the redistribution actors in the city, and to lead collaboration across the redistribution sector presented an exciting chance to make a monumental difference.
To give a sense of the issue: every year more than 250,000 tonnes of food which is processed, packaged, and ready-to-eat is wasted by producers, manufacturers and retailers in the UK supply chain for reasons ranging from inaccurate demand forecasting, packaging errors, damage in transit or retailer rejections. FareShare South West provides a flexible and easy way of working together to ensure good quality surplus food never reaches a bin.
In 2020, the whole world experienced an almighty shock in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic, and here in the UK it laid bare the realities of food poverty and further exacerbated the situations vulnerable people found themselves in. Through temporary infrastructure, including warehouses lent to us free of charge, vans donated, and even purchased food (including via DEFRA), FareShare South West was able to increase our operation by almost five times our normal capacity to meet the soaring demand for food support. While we are proud to have been able to do so, we now need to look to a future of food supply post-COVID that is sustainable – as the emergency of the health pandemic might be over, but soaring food insecurity is not.
Surplus is part of the solution to this. Last financial year alone, the UK-wide FareShare network saved 25,000 tonnes of fit-for-consumption food from waste – enough to provide 56 million meals. But the reality is what we are saving is only a drop in the ocean. Saving just 1% more of the total good-to-eat surplus food from waste could provide enough food for 33 million more meals. Not only does it provide vital food for those most in need, but it is also a more environmentally friendly solution. With food production a key contributor to environmental damage and climate change, it seems utterly ludicrous that much of it simply ends up in a bin.
Fortunately, here in the South West we’re lucky to have a number of local food suppliers and producers working with us to ensure their surplus food never goes to waste.
Essential Trading have supplied over three tonnes of food to FareShare South West, often in bulk quantities. We work with Essential Trading on an ad hoc basis, meaning they don’t commit to a certain amount and instead are just able to provide what they can when the surplus arises.
Says Jimmy from Essential Trading: “One of the rewarding features of working with FareShare South West is that they give feedback after the produce has been dispatched and utilised. It’s great to know who has been able to put our food to good use – and we’ve even had some direct contact from charities who’ve benefitted from our food to say how good it was!”
Samworth Brothers, food manufacturers who make well known Ginsters products, provide regular weekly donations of surplus to our Bristol warehouse. Since May 2020, they have donated over 10 tonnes of food, which equates to enough food for more than 25,000 meals. As a significant South West business this is an important relationship and source of surplus for us and we hope that as we expand our warehouse sites across the South West, that Samworth Brothers will be able to provide surplus to those too!
These valued partners – and the others that we work with – are just the beginning. As we move from the emergency phase of the pandemic, and with the DEFRA food supply ending, we need more local food suppliers to engage with food redistribution.
As a city-wide effort, the Food Waste Action Group is raising the profile of the issue of food waste within the food industry and we are sure that this work will see more Bristol and South West businesses seeking to ‘bite back better’ when it comes to their surplus.
Find out more about the Bristol Food Waste Action Group, chaired by Resource Futures as part of the city’s bid to become a Gold Sustainable Food City, on the Resource Futures’ website.
Essential Trading is the lead partner for Bristol Bites Back Better. Essential’s Jimmy Nelson wrote for this blog about the co-operative’s history and values and how they have offered a different model of food supply since the 1970s.
By setting the wheels in motion now, together we can transform the future of food in our city, building in resilience over the next decade. So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.
So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.
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