Supply chain food redistribution rises by 16%

The redistribution of surplus food to charities and commercial outlets has risen by 16% year on year according to resources charity WRAP.

The Felix Trust is among the charities supported by WRAP's food redistribution fund

In 2021, 106,000 tonnes of surplus food was collected for use rather than being disposed of but according to WRAP there is still 200,000 tonnes of “perfectly good food” which still goes to waste in the supply chain. Figures from WRAP on the percentage of waste arising from the 106,000 tonnes was not released within the charity’s statements.

Equating the 106,000 tonnes to 253 million meals, the charity said that of the tonnage, most of the surplus food from manufacturers went to the commercial sector while retailers were the main suppliers to the charity sector.

The announcement today (6 July) follows on from a Food Standards Agency report highlighting the need to increase the amount of food redistributed, to ensure that as much surplus food is redistributed to people rather than going to waste.

‘Devastating’

Catherine David, director for collaboration and change at WRAP, said: “It’s devastating to see how much food continues to be wasted from supply chains when so many people are struggling to afford the basics, and food redistributors say they can take more. Whilst we welcome the increased amount of food being redistributed in the UK, we know there is a huge amount of good food – 200,000 tonnes of it every year – that could be feeding people.”

Ms David continued: “Wasting food also feeds climate change, as all the resources taken to produce the food are thrown in the bin with it. We urge all food businesses and their suppliers to adopt our guidance on redistribution as a priority and help more food get to the people who need it. The surplus food is there, and there is so much more that could be saved at this difficult time for UK families.”

Work through the Courtauld 2030 Redistribution Working Group has been instrumental in increasing redistribution, with grant-funding by government helping to significantly expand capacity and capabilities within the sector. Grant support of more than £12 million in Defra grants was awarded to around 250 projects, with funding and donations awarded from other UK governments and businesses.

Felix Project

The figures were announced as Defra Minister for Food, Victoria Prentis, attended the one-year anniversary of the opening of London-based food redistribution charity The Felix Project’s depot in Poplar. This received an £800,000 Government grant under the Resource Action Fund, administered by WRAP on behalf of Defra, which enabled the charity to develop and furnish a new depot beside its existing kitchen and expand the amount of food it handles.

The surplus food report is available from WRAP

Claire Shrewsbury, director for insights and innovation at WRAP, noted: “Though the Resource Action Fund alone, a total of seventeen small and largescale organisations have been able to feed people and prevent nearly 30,500 tonnes of food from going to waste, saving around 122,600 tonnes of GHG emissions linked to food.”

The overall profile of the food surplus redistributed was similar in each year, although the amounts of fresh meat and fish, drinks, and ambient food more than doubled between 2019 and 2021. Since 2020, there has been a reduction in the amount of fresh produce, dairy, chilled pre-prepared and frozen food redistributed with bakery and chilled-prepared foods lower than 2019 levels

Network

WRAP says it has updated the Food and Drink Surplus Network to make it easier for businesses with surplus food to connect with commercial and charitable redistributors and is providing specialist technical support in the USA and Australia and sharing learnings to increase food surplus redistribution in those countries.

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