Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks at the National Farmers Union in Birmingham

Source: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks at the National Farmers Union in Birmingham

The government has finally bowed to pressure to introduce a major fund to help redirect food surplus and stop it going to waste on farms.

Aftter years of campaigning by The Grocer and charities including FareShare, Rishi Sunak announced at the NFU Conference yesterday that he was making a £15m fund available immediately. He claimed it would stop “millions of tonnes of good, fresh farm food from going to waste”.

The move was made as part of a series of announcements by Sunak to try to improve food security in the UK.

The battle for funding to pay for farmgate surplus redistribution has raged since the government failed to renew a £15m pilot scheme, first set up by former environment secretary Michael Gove in 2018, which provided redistribution charities funds to transport waste in the supply chain to prevent it being buried back into field, sent to landfill or sent to anaerobic digestion.

Gove’s intervention came following a long battle under The Grocer’s Waste Not Want Not food waste campaign.

Last year, more than 1,000 charities across the UK signed an open letter to Sunak to back the campaign by FareShare, which was calling for £25m per year from the government. The charity claimed this could help it deliver 42,500 tonnes of surplus food – the equivalent of 100 million meals – to people experiencing food insecurity.

Although it had campaigned for a larger sum of money, the move was strongly welcomed by the charity and its partners.

CEO George Wright said he wasthrilled that after years of campaigning from FareShare and The Felix Project, the government will be committing £15m towards food surplus redistribution, getting good-to-eat surplus food from our farms to people who need it instead of letting it go to waste”.

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“We are hugely grateful to our supporters, donors, partners and MPs, all of whom have played a part in securing this significant step forward,” he said.

“We know that farmers want their edible surplus produce to feed people. At a time when 13 million people in the UK are facing food insecurity, this funding has the potential to make an enormous difference to people and communities across the country. We look forward to learning more details and to working with the government, farmers and the surplus food redistribution sector to put plans into place that will deliver a rapid and effective impact.”

The Felix Project CEO Charlotte Hill added:Last year we redistributed 32 million meals to London’s hungry. But that’s a fraction of the food being wasted, and the number of people needing food support greatly outstrips supply. It’s a travesty that the farmers invest so much money, time and heart in growing food that has not been feeding people.

“This £15m funding will make a real difference to our work stopping quality food from being wasted and getting it instead to those most in need. We are delighted that the government has answered the call from The Felix Project and FareShare to take this commonsense step, making sure food makes it to hungry people’s plates.

“We look forward to helping make this commitment a reality, alongside the many charities, schools and community groups we support to serve our society’s most vulnerable people.”