Wasting food in the UK
It is estimated that UK supermarkets throw away at least 115,000 tonnes of good food every year, more than any other country in the EU, such as Germany, which has a bigger population. Wrap, the government-backed food waste reduction charity, estimated that UK supermarkets wasted 235,000 tonnes (235 million kilograms) of food in 2015 of which around half, 115,000 tonnes, was “perfectly edible and practically avoidable”. Only a minuscule proportion of the food surplus – about 3 per cent – was donated to charities that feed people in need.
Meanwhile food insecurity in the UK is on the rise. Food insecurity is variously defined as experiencing hunger, inability to secure enough food of sufficient quality and quantity to enable good health and participation in society, and cutting down on food due to financial necessity. A Food Foundation report this year estimated that 4.7 million people aged over 15 were severely food-insecure, meaning they were too poor to afford enough food and sometimes went without. A further 3.7 million were classed as moderately food-insecure. These figures place the UK in the bottom half of European countries on hunger measures, below Hungary, Estonia, Slovakia and Malta.
Around 17 times the number of people who use Trussell Trust food banks were insecure about getting enough to eat, suggesting hunger in the UK is far more widespread than rising charity food use indicates. Food prices are predicted to rise over the coming weeks and months, and with increasing welfare cuts and benefit sanctions, more individuals and families will be driven to cutting down on food due to financial necessity, thereby potentially forcing millions more into food insecurity.
Transition Kentish Town project
In Kentish Town High Road (within less than 1 mile) there are 7 main brand supermarkets, groceries, bakeries, veg stalls, and numerous cafes, sandwich shops and restaurants. Collectively they will be generating and throwing away large amounts of surplus food and food waste that is fit for human consumption.
We at the Transition Kentish Town food group have spoken to many of these food retailers and producers and they generally express positive intentions to distribute their surplus and waste food to the community. At the moment, they transport the goods into Kentish Town on articulated lorries, usually late at night (the big supermarkets), and on those same vehicles they take away the food that’s not sold, out of date, or surplus. It then goes to landfill and/or anaerobic digestion. Our aim is to stop the food that’s fit for human consumption from being wasted by keeping it in the Borough and making it available for community use.
We have spoken to many small projects, community groups, charities in Camden who provide food for those who need it, in the form of hot meals and food parcels. These projects are experiencing an increase in demand and need for food across all groups from young families to the elderly. With money for funding being harder to find, many projects are having to cut their food provision as they currently have to BUY THE FOOD to feed their people.
What could we do?
Local food collection and distribution system – to gather sort and distribute food from retailers and redirect to the community by supplying directly organisations, groups and individuals, creating a local food-sharing model.
Social supermarket – food is offered in a grocery-type setting for people to pick up same-day food on a donation basis (donation of money, volunteer time, or skills). The Mayor of London has funded a number of these social supermarkets, one is currently being set up in Haringey.
Pay As You Feel Cafe – to provide daily fresh, hot, healthy meals paid for by donation.
Outreach and Education with schools and community groups.
Produce from waste – preserves, pickles, dried fruit snacks, soup, beer etc.
Chefs’ supper club nights using waste and surplus food.
For more info and to share ideas and suggestions, please use the contact us form.