Is good food ever surplus to requirement?

It’s harvest season – a time of plenty, when traditionally we celebrate and give thanks for the volume of food our farmers have produced over the summer months.

The tonnes of wonderful food have been lovingly and tirelessly grown with the sole purpose of feeding a human stomach. But as countless studies by eminent organisations like the United National Food and Agriculture Organisation and The Institution of Mechanical Engineers have revealed – at least a third of food produced globally never reaches its intended target.

This week (and London members will have struggled not to have noticed this) the Evening Standard brought into sharp focus the scandalous amount of food wasted in the UK while thousands struggle to feed their families, launching its Food for London campaign, as it puts it: “harnessing the capital’s food surplus to tackle food poverty – transforming an environmental problem into a social solution.”

The paper highlighted the 10 million tonne mountain of fresh produce wasted in Britain annually and called on supermarkets to at least double, from 3%, the amount of food they donate to charities. Doing so would provide 732,000 meal a week, the paper says.

The Standard is supporting a charity started by the paper’s chairman – The Felix Project. It picks up unsold fresh produce for free from shops and supplier and delivers free to charities helping to feed Londoners struggling to afford food.

We think now is the right time for all our members: restaurants, foodservice and suppliers to stop for a moment and think about how they are managing their food waste, remembering of course the hierarchy – reduce, reuse, recycle.

We know that donating surplus is not necessarily as straightforward as some make it sound. It sounds simple, but we know from speaking to members and organisations like City Harvest (the SRA helped this successful US project launch in London last year) , Food Donation Connection and Plan Zheroes that issues over consistency of supply, demand for specific food types and storage and collection can make it more difficult than at first it seems. A number of university members including Anglia Ruskin and University of Chester are already making regular donations and of course Approved Supplier Toast Ale makes its brew with surplus bread.

But here is an opportunity to play your part in ensuring food hits its human target. If you think your business could divert food that you can no longer use, then do it. Or, if that’s no an option for the reasons outlines above, then how about talking to your suppliers and urging them to consider their surplus. You can contact Food for London’s project co-ordinator, [email protected], or one of the other donation organisations listed above. If you or your suppliers do start donating please be sure to let us know as we’d love to share the good news too.

And if donation isn’t possible but you’d like tips from fellow food service businesses on how best to reduce your waste, click here.

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