City Harvest driver, Cliff Dorant, 2022

A leading food charity has published figures showing that every tonne of food it redistributes to frontline groups fighting hunger is worth £3,550 in benefits to society.

City Harvest has released research from leading consultant Bain, which shows its social return on investment has doubled since 2018, when it was first measured by the company.

Bain found the charity saved frontline organisations £3,450 per tonne of food over the five years on average, with a further £100 average saving per tonne for food donors giving to the charity.

City Harvest said the report highlighted the crucial role of food redistribution in the cost of living crisis and called on ministers to do more to support it.

The report found there was an ”urgent need” for the UK food industry to redistribute more food “not only for the environmental and social benefits but also as a core part of its overall strategy to generate cost savings in this challenging economic climate”.

It said less than 50% of its donors redistributed more than three-quarters of their surplus food.

”By redistributing, food businesses eliminate costs spent on storage and warehouse spaces, and on waste management, where the surplus food is disposed.

“When businesses partner with organisations like City Harvest, they save even further by not having to pay for the logistics of disposal, as City Harvest takes care of transport and any required sorting of the produce. City Harvest believes that redistribution can address cost pressures in the food industry, whilst also helping vulnerable populations gain access to food.”

The report also calls for the government to do more to incentivise companies to engage with food surplus redistribution charities. It also asks for ministers to push for greater transparency on food waste reporting, with Defra under fire for having ditched plans for mandatory reporting, promised by former environment secretary Michael Gove in 2018.

“The new report is a clear indication that there is a strong economic, as well as ethical, argument for businesses to partner with food redistribution charities like City Harvest,” said the charity’s CEO Sarah Calcutt.

“Food that we give to our community partners frees up their budgets to be spent on essential support services like debt counselling, education, access to technology, legal assistance, and so much more. The food not only opens the door to the help so badly needed, but it also improves mental and physical health, reducing the demands on the NHS. A financial solution to government as well, one could argue.”