Redistributing half of surplus food could save UK £500m

24 October 2018

Redistributing half the UK’s surplus food could save the economy £500m a year, a charity has said.

In a report, the food waste charity FareShare said 650m meals were wasted every year, around 10 per person.

A “significant amount” of this food waste occurred in supply chains, including though produce left in the field, surplus left by demand fluctuations and excess supply of seasonal goods, it said.

In 2017 the Waste & Resources Action Programme estimated 17% of UK food waste happened in the supply chain.

FareShare said it redistributed 17,000 tonnes of in-date, good-to-eat surplus food in 2017-18, enough to make almost 37m meals.

The charity said this saved the UK a total of £50.9m last year, including an estimated £6.9m in social value and £44m in savings to the state though a reduction in welfare costs associated with food poverty.

It estimated this could be increased to half-a-billion if the charity had the capacity to handle half the UK’s food surplus.

Lindsay Boswell, FareShare chief executive, said: “The cost avoided by the state by charities serving up nutritious meals with FareShare food is a staggering £51m every year, and that’s with us accessing just 5% of the surplus food available. Imagine what we could do if we could get more of it.”

The report added that while the aggregate cost to the UK of food waste was “enormous”, for large agribusinesses, producers and other companies the cost of food being wasted was “marginal to their operating costs”.

In August, a think tank said firms should increase local sourcing of ingredients and inputs as part of efforts to tackle food waste.

In a separate report, the Boston Consulting Group said 1.6bn tonnes of food, worth around $1.2tn, was lost or went to waste each year – one third of the total amount of food produced globally.

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