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The boss of food redistribution giant FareShare has called for talks to bring better co-operation in the battle against food poverty, after warning cut-throat competition in the food charity sector is harming efforts to help families.

Former Marks & Spencer director of food and ex-Tesco veteran George Wright said he had already begun talks with fellow food redistribution charities. He added he planned to hold further discussions with other charities and tech providers, as he called for a more strategic approach to redistribution of food waste and surplus.

It comes as FareShare told The Grocer it had redistributed around 12 million meals to nearly 7,000 charities in December alone, as the cost of living crisis continued to cause a hunger crisis in the UK.

george wright source - fareshare

Source: FareShare

FareShare CEO George Wright

However, Wright said the soaring demand meant that demand for food far outstripped supply, which often saw charities fighting among themselves to receive food, rather than working together on how best it could be redistributed.

“There’s too much competitive behaviour amongst the charities when they should be working better to make better use of their collective resources,” Wright said.

“The thing that struck me the most when I joined FareShare was that what I do now is way more competitive than what I used to do.

“The last thing I want to do is to be seen to be slagging the industry off, but the problem comes because the demand is way bigger than supply so it’s the converse of retail where there is more capacity than there is demand.

“That make it incredibly competitive and there are a lot more charities than there are retailers.

“FareShare is an amalgamation of different charities and I want to discuss how we can work better together.”

In November, a raft of leading supermarket and supplier bosses announced groundbreaking plans to put competition aside and work together to provide millions of meals for charities on the frontline under a new Alliance Manufacturing system.

The plans form a key part of the King’s Coronation Food Project, which is seeking to unlock hundreds of thousands more meals to feed hungry people.

However, Wright said it was also vital that charities in the food redistribution sector came together to make better use of surplus.

He said a key priority was for charities to work together to help tackle the staggering 3.3 million tonnes of food estimated to be wasted before it even leaves the farmgate in the UK.

While praising food surplus tech startups such as Olio and Neighbourly, he also said he believed the time was right for the UK to have an industry technology platform to maximise its collective efforts.

Wright is also calling for much more government help  to incentivise food redistribution, warning that the UK had fallen well behind other countries, such as the US, in dealing with the problem.

“Everybody in the industry is getting better at using their waste, whether that is computer systems, change in use by dates, change of life extensions and that’s a good thing of course,” he said.

“But it also means it’s an incredibly competitive space and the priority now has to be how do we go after the more complicated and expensive sources of waste, whether that is farmgate or in the manufacturing or hospitality sectors. To do that we need to change the dynamic.”