Food redistribution bosses have welcomed plans driven by King Charles for a massive scaling up of infrastructure for surplus food.
The King is launching a Coronation Food Project to coincide with his 75th birthday next month, with the monarch said to have “increasing concern” about the impact of the cost of living crisis on food poverty.
It is understood King Charles hopes his intervention can see levels of food surplus redistribution grow to 200 million meals a year, a major increase on the 125 million currently distributed by the leading food charity FareShare.
The project will be overseen by Dame Martina Milburn, former CEO of the Prince’s Trust, who was asked earlier this year to explore ways of reducing the 12 million tonnes of food thrown away in the UK each year.
A royal source said: “His Majesty has chosen to make the launch of this project the focus of his landmark 75th birthday. He would prefer to use the occasion to shine a light on an important cause rather than on himself.”
The King visited volunteers working for the Felix Project in London in February to discuss food redistribution efforts, with the event attended by the likes of Tesco CEO Ken Murphy, Waitrose boss James Bailey and Ocado CEO Hannah Gibson.
It came after the charity told The Grocer the cost of living crisis had seen a huge rise in the need for food, whilst soaring energy costs had hampered its delivery operations.
The latest royal intervention comes after the government was criticised for claiming a “success story” in food surplus redistribution, while three million tonnes of food each year is going to waste on farms.
New figures from Wrap show the total amount of food redistributed last year increased by 27%, or around 29,000 tonnes, compared with 2021.
However, FareShare staged protests at the Conservative party conference calling for the government to do more, warning the figures were vastly overshadowed by the huge amounts of food being ploughed back into farms across the UK.
FareShare CEO George Wright said the charity was “honoured” to be included in King Charles’ plans.
He added: “FareShare already supports more than 8,500 charities and community groups, and demand is far outstripping supply, so these plans to get more food out where it’s needed are really exciting.
“We’re already redistributing four meals every single second and when we know the food is out there, we know there is huge potential to increase that number.”
Meanwhile a survey by the BRC shows retailers raised £540m for good causes in the past financial year.
A report published by the body shows the total includes £200m through fundraising, with an additional £150m donated directly by retailers.
Some 69 million meals and £76m worth of products were donated to charities and organisations supporting those in need.
The BRC also reported that staff across the industry volunteered 1.7 million hours of time supporting retail community programmes, whilst donating £20m through payroll donation schemes.
The consortium said despite major economic headwinds and a rise in the cost of living, thousands of charities had benefited from the efforts of retailers, their colleagues and customers.
“It is fantastic to see the scale of support that retailers, colleagues and customers have given to good causes in the last year, despite the tough economic landscape,” said Helen Dickinson, BRC CEO.
“Whether fundraising in stores and online, making salary donations, or volunteering time for local projects, retailers are helping their communities in a wealth of ways.”