TMC - food bank (002)

Food waste was “environmental, economic and moral folly”. So said the then environment secretary Michael Gove in 2018, two years after the launch of The Grocer’s Waste Not Want Not Campaign, as the government announced £15m in funding to kickstart an increase in redistribution of food surplus.

This week we once again shine a light on the full scale of that folly, with shocking new details in a report by one of the world’s leading food waste experts, on behalf of the WWF and Tesco, revealed for the first time.

We already knew the government had squandered much of those funds, first by diverting just £1.9m to the subsidies it was intended for (Defra gave the rest to Wrap or wasted it on duplicating work already in place). We also know already the government ultimately welched on that commitment, pulling the plug despite FareShare proving, even with the £1.9m, the extraordinary impact these subsidies were having.

What the new report shows is even more shocking, suggesting the war on food waste is in danger of being lost.

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It’s true supermarkets and suppliers have made real progress, though the lack of transparency on reporting (with the exception of Tesco) remains an issue.

But even more serious, Professor Julian Parfitt’s report shows the scale of the waste problem is far greater than was previously thought. And it’s even more of a scandal when so many families are facing the prospect of food poverty amid the worst cost of living crisis in decades. How can the government sit by and watch food banks run out of supplies, when 3.3 million megatonnes of food from farms is being fed to animals or, worse, being ploughed straight back into the ground?

Yet, tragically, that is what is happening.

FareShare estimates if ministers answer its call for £25m in funding to help farmers and smaller producers redistribute their food, it could lead to 100 million meals going to those in need. But despite “warm words” ministers are turning a deaf ear. Yet it’s the equivalent sum to what the government is investing for high street regeneration… in Walsall. Go figure, as they say.