FareShare Dan w carrots SWP

The government has been warned it must step in to tackle the scandal of vast quantities of food going to waste when charities are running out of food for the hungry.

Food redistribution charity FareShare said it was unacceptable that its calls for funding had fallen on deaf ears, even though the money it was asking for was a tiny fraction of the cost to the UK of food waste.

The move comes as The Grocer this week obtained the full technical data behind the recent WWF and Tesco joint report into the scale of food being wasted on UK farms, which reveals previous figures have been vastly underestimated.

Report author Professor Julian Parfitt this week told The Grocer the scale of waste was mind-boggling and that the UK was in “deep trouble” unless it could find ways to prevent so much being wasted.

FareShare told The Grocer that despite receiving more than 49,000 tonnes of good-to-eat surplus food from the food industry in the past year, it no longer had enough food to cope with demand due to soaring levels of food poverty amid the cost of living crisis.

The charity has appealed for £25m government funding to cover the cost of allowing small-scale farmers and growers to redistribute food.

In 2018, then environment secretary Michael Gove announced a £15m pilot scheme to subsidise the redistribution of edible food surplus and put a stop to what he called the “environmental, economic and moral folly” of good food going to waste.

Of that, £1.9m went to FareShare, whose subsequent Surplus With Purpose fund resulted in 85% more surplus fruit & vegetables, that may otherwise have gone to waste, reaching frontline charities and community groups in 2019-20.

But government funding was axed after the pilot scheme ended, and despite two recommendations from the Efra Committee, and what the charity said had been “warm words” from senior levels of government, it has yet to be reinstated.

“Right now, we do not have enough food to meet demand. Food insecurity in the UK has now doubled as, for many, the soaring cost of living is a bigger financial crisis than Covid-19,” said Simon Millard, director of food at FareShare.

“Like us, the charities and community groups we support are clearly worried that they may not be able to meet the extra demand caused by the cost of living crisis, much of it coming from young people, families, and those in work – people who have never had to use these services before.

“While millions are being forced into food poverty, when there is so much need, it is wrong there is so much waste. Yet it is often cheaper for farmers to waste food, than to feed people. We urge the government, and the Prime Minister, to recommit to funding surplus food redistribution in the UK, and help get 100 million meals to people who need them.”

During the pandemic Defra announced £16m of emergency funding, include £10.5m for FareShare, which was used to buy food for food parcels to vulnerable families.

But Millard said: “This was a temporary solution to a crisis. Purchasing food does not help solve the issue of over 2.9 million tonnes of good to eat food being wasted at farmgate every year, at a time when demand for our food has skyrocketed.”

Parfitt’s submission used for the WWF/Tesco report says Wrap was “far too generous” in its definitions of food waste in a previous landmark study, with the new report claiming the amount of food wasted, including edible and inedible, in UK, stands at a staggering 3.3 megatonnes, almost equivalent in weight to the Palace of Westminster.