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Combating Food WasteThe British Government has led successful campaigns to get citizens to rethink the food they throw away. The British charity, Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), works with larger businesses and local communities to use resources efficiently and sustainably. Charities like FareShare are combating food waste by redistributing food to hungry people in the U.K. For about 25 years, the organization has been keeping communities fed by providing millions of meals to those in need.

The Facts on Food Waste

Since World War I, the U.K. has struggled with food waste. The country implemented rationing methods in both World Wars to combat excess waste in times of crisis. These methods have undergone adaptation to address modern food waste issues.

Several campaigns target the impact of domestic food waste in the U.K. There has been a great success, with household waste falling 6% in a three-year span. Still, an estimated 4.5 million tons of food goes to waste. Meal planning and using food within the home reduce domestic food waste. Small and simple actions on the individual level lead to large change across the nation.

The exact amounts of waste in the food industry are not clear, however, estimates are concerning. Food services waste roughly one million tons, “equivalent to throwing away one in six meals served.” Surplus food is responsible for much of this waste. Food producers produce food in quantities too large to match consumption. Additionally, while some of the food remains edible, it may be undesirable due to its appearance. In 2018, 20-40% of supermarket produce underwent disposal for failing to meet cosmetic standards.

Food waste comes with a price tag for individual households and the food services sector. Industries lose £2 billion due to excess food. Meanwhile households, manufacturing, retail and food services waste an estimated £19 billion worth of food annually. Solving the matter of food waste is not only of humanitarian interest but of economic value too.

The Role of WRAP

WRAP came about in 2000. It has successfully brokered agreements with several industries to reduce waste, including food retail. With the United Kingdom’s population expected to grow in coming years, there will be an increased need for food, resulting in possible excess waste. WRAP’s 2025 Food Vision tackles seven aspects of food waste:

  • Food production
  • Food packaging
  • Supply chain wastage
  • Role of consumers
  • Food waste collections
  • Waste management infrastructure
  • Energy conversion

Each focus point works in tandem. Improving efforts in one sector will benefit the others. Therefore, food waste reduction initiatives must address each aspect to ensure optimal success.

WRAP works with businesses and provides a roadmap and toolkit to guide parties interested in reducing food waste. The organization encourages businesses to set a target goal for reduction, to measure appropriately and to effectively act. The initiative aims to ensure the U.K. meets its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

WRAP began the Love Food Hate Waste campaign in 2007. The campaign raises awareness and teaches simple steps to reduce waste on an individual level. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign also offers recipes to ensure that each food item goes to use.

FareShare: Combating Food Waste

The longest-running food redistribution charity in the United Kingdom, FareShare, has been giving back to communities since 1994 by ensuring that no food goes to waste. The organization solves two problems with one solution: reduce waste and solve hunger by putting surplus food to good use. Powered by volunteers and fueled by charities, FareShare has provided millions of meals to vulnerable populations.

The process is simple: retailers supply FareShare with their surplus food and FareShare redistributes the goods to local charities. FareShare supports almost a million people every week. The U.K. economy also benefits by saving £51 million each year.

FareShare does not tackle its grand mission alone. The Borgen Project spoke with James Persad of FareShare who says, “There are still tons of food going to waste, enough for millions of meals. Our mission is not possible without our partners.” Businesses both big and small have committed to the cause. Nestlé is one of FareShare’s longest ongoing partnerships. From 2005 to 2016, they redistributed “roughly six million meals worth of food” to those in need.

Efforts have led to creative innovations. One such success is FareShare Go, a service that allows local supermarkets to donate surplus food to charities through text messages. The initiative received recognition from the World Food Innovation Awards in 2018.

Addressing Dual Issues

Food redistribution efforts are successfully combating food waste. Hunger and food waste are two dire problems society faces, but thankfully, solutions have emerged that address both. These food rescue solutions combat hunger by ensuring that no food goes to waste.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

hunger in the united kingdomThe United Kingdom (U.K.), which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is home to 32 recognized UNESCO World Heritage Sites, like Stonehenge. In addition, the British Library in London is the largest library in the world. However, the United Kingdom struggles with high levels of hunger and food insecurity compared to its European neighbors. In 2018 and 2019 alone, food banks distributed an estimated 3 million parcels of food. Here are 10 facts about hunger in the United Kingdom.

10 Facts About Hunger in the United Kingdom

  1. According to the Evidence and Network on U.K. Household Food Security, 10% U.K. adults live in marginally food insecure households. Another 10% live with moderate or severe food insecurity. Marginal food insecurity indicates concern about one’s ability to access food. However, moderate food insecurity includes compromises and limitations in food quality and variety. It may also include skipping meals and reducing food intake and quantity. Individuals experiencing severe food insecurity often go hungry.
  2. Many children in the U.K. also face food insecurity. UNICEF estimated in 2017 that 19% of children under the age of 15 live with someone who faces moderate or severe food insecurity. Furthermore, 10% of children live with severely food-insecure people.
  3. On a global scale, hunger in the United Kingdom may seem low. UNICEF reports that an 41% of children live in a moderately or severely food-insecure household. However, compared to food insecurity levels in the E.U., the U.K. ranks poorly. Hunger in the United Kingdom puts it fourth among E.U. nations, behind Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
  4. People in the U.K. are spending more on food while eating less. In 2012, the poorest 10% of U.K. households spent approximately a quarter of their income on food and non-alcoholic drinks. In contrast, the wealthiest 10% of households spent 4.2% of their income on the same supplies.
  5. Food waste feeds hunger in the United Kingdom. The U.K.’s food waste in 2018 amounted to approximately 9.5 million tons. However, 70% of the wasted food was edible. Only a minuscule amount of this waste went to charities or animal feed. Efforts to prevent food waste therefore remain critical in the fight to end hunger in the United Kingdom.
  6. The need for emergency food supplies in the U.K. is increasing. The Trussell Trust, a U.K. nonprofit whose mission is to stop poverty and hunger in the U.K., distributed 1.6 million three-day emergency food supplies from April 2018 to March 2019. Approximately 577,618 of the emergency food supplies went to children. Further, the amount of food distributed marks an 18.8% increase from the previous year.
  7. The U.K. participates in the U.N.’s effort to tackle poverty through The Sustainable Development Goals. The U.N.’s agenda also includes ending hunger by 2030. Nonetheless, a 2018 report released by the U.K. Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) states, “While there is an enormous amount to celebrate, the most vulnerable places and people in our society are increasingly left behind.” Challenges include food insecurity, rising obesity and malnutrition.
  8. The U.K. agreed to measure food insecurity in the Family Resources Survey, which measures U.K. poverty statistics annually. Data collection from 20,000 surveyed households began in April 2019 and will come out in April 2021. Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, said, “We’ve known for too long now that a disturbing number of people in the U.K. don’t have access to enough nutritious food, but our knowledge has been too patchy to identify real solutions. But this new national measurement of food insecurity is a massive step forward and will provide essential foundations for the response we so urgently need.”
  9. U.K. nonprofit FareShare is helping overcome hunger in the U.K. It does so by redistributing surplus food to charities that then turn the food into meals for community members. So far, the organization’s 1,500 volunteers have redistributed 24,074 tons of food to charities. This is an estimated 14.1 million pounds of food.  Importantly, this is enough to help 10,962 charities and community groups. Overall, the organization has provided 57.3 million meals to people facing food insecurity.
  10. End Hunger U.K., a coalition of 40 organizations, is also working to end poverty and hunger in the United Kindgom. This organization encouraged the U.K. government to fund school programs and holiday food. In 2020, the government invested up to 11.8 million pounds to support families facing food insecurity and provide children with healthy breakfasts. This investment will add up to 650 schools to the National School Breakfast Programme, which provides breakfast delivery grants and healthy food deliveries to schools across the U.K.

Moving Forward

In the past five years, the U.K. government has taken important steps to help end hunger in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, organizations like FareShare and End Hunger U.K. remain central change-makers on the local and national level. Government actors and organizations together provide hope that they can end hunger in the United Kingdom sooner rather than later.

– Zoe Engels
Photo: Flickr