Who do I talk to if I want to know more than is covered in this Q and A?

Please get in touch with Susie Haywood, Senior Press & PR Officer on susie.haywood@fareshare.org.uk, Tel: 020 7394 2460 or 07415 241 328. Susie will direct your call to the most appropriate person in FareShare.

How do I arrange a visit to my nearest FareShare?

You can find details of your nearest Regional Centre here. They will be looking forward to your call.

We would love you to come and help sort out the food, load it into our refrigerated vans and deliver it to local charities and community groups. This way you see multiple “good causes” in one day and can see the potential for how we could do so much more to support your local community groups. We cover most of the UK – we currently have two main gaps in coverage, East Anglia and Cornwall, but are working hard to provide a service to these areas.

What is the scale of the problem?

Some 400,000 tonnes of in-date food goes to waste or is fed to animals each year in the UK. Most of this is in the supply chain and has never even made it to shops. FareShare currently feeds 150,000 people a week with 7,000 tonnes out of 400 000 tonnes of this food by diverting it to more than 2,000 charities which otherwise would have to buy food for the services they provide.

This saves them close to £20 million a year and it is achieved with only 2% of the food that is available.

So what is the potential?

If FareShare was able to divert one plate in four of surplus food we would then be able to support the 13-14,000 charities and community groups across the UK which are currently buying food.

We know that France already deals with at least this amount, 100,000 tonnes and we see no reason why the UK cannot do the same

Who gets the food?

We divert surplus food to any charity or community group that is using food as part of their core services to support those who are vulnerable in our society. Examples include domestic violence refuges, the homeless sector, drug and alcohol dependency units, mental health charities, community groups tackling isolation and loneliness in the elderly – and many more.

What is the food?

All the food we redistribute is in date fit for human consumption. It is just surplus. About one third of it is fresh fruit and vegetables and the majority is fresh produce that would have ended up in the chiller cabinets of supermarkets like meat, dairy, cheeses, sauces, ready-meals and so on.

What about food banks?

FareShare is not a food bank and only a very small percentage of the organisations we provide food to are food banks.

We concentrate on supporting organisations that are addressing the cause, not just the symptom, of hunger.

Is this a political hot potato?

We offer an environmental solution with a massive social return and we cannot see why that has anything to do with austerity, benefits and so on.

FareShare is apolitical but we do need Government interventions to ensure that “no good food goes to waste”.

What difference would this make to UK charities and communities?

If we increased the amount of food being diverted to one plate in four, this would save the UK voluntary sector £250 million a year.

That would make surplus food second only to the National Lottery as a funder of UK good causes.

So how can I help, as an MP? 

  • Please come and see the issues and front line charities for yourself.
  • Please ask food businesses in your constituency to work with us…….don’t accept they have no waste as every food business at some time or other has a mistake.
  • Help us get our voice heard at Government (see the question on Government below)

Could FareShare cope?

We currently have 20 Regional Centres across the whole of the UK and have business plans to provide another six to offer full UK coverage. We are growing by close to 50% year on year but need an injection of on average £2.5 million per year for five years before we could become fully and permanently sustainable as a social enterprise needing no more central funding to deliver the annual £250 million saving to the voluntary sector.

What are the barriers to making this happen?

More food, time-limited funding and support from Government. See below.

What are the barriers to getting more food from the food industry?

We now have partnership agreements in place with all the major retailers but we need an even playing field to be in place. Keeping food healthy and fit for humans requires more effort than throwing it into a container destined for animal feed or anaerobic digestion. The cost of transporting this food to FareShare is a practical and very real barrier.

In France food businesses can offset some of the direct and transparent costs through a tax break up to a capped limit. There is also an uneven playing field around anaerobic digestion.

What is Anaerobic Digestion?

Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a clever process by which food waste is broken down, digested, in a series of natural processes and the gases emitted are captured and turned into energy which is fed into the national grid. The AD industry has access to subsidies to set up AD facilities and also can benefit from a “feed-in” tariff earning income from energy sold to the national grid.

The UK is justifiably proud to be a leader in AD technology and use but we need equity of support and to ensure good food is not fed into these facilities while there is social value that can be arrived from feeding people in need.

What’s the issue with AD?

We fully support turning food that is not fit for humans into energy. However when that food could have been diverted to feed people in need we believe that turning it into energy is morally and ethically wrong.

Anaerobic Digestion has had access to a wide range of support to fund building and set up costs through support from initiatives including the Anaerobic Digestion Loan Fund (ADLF), the On Farm Anaerobic Digestion Loan Fund, the Enhanced Capital Allowance Energy scheme and other grant aid and support from groups including WRAP and The Green Investment Bank. Critically, Anaerobic Digestion also receives significant investment to subsidise its running costs via the Feed In Tariff and/or Renewable Heat Incentive schemes.

Given the social value of surplus food we believe support for feeding humans is even better value for money, and a minute fraction of the investment made into anaerobic digestion would be needed. Furthermore the UK is signed up to EU legislation that is meant to prevent financial incentives being unequally applied to the “waste hierarchy”.

We do not want the support for anaerobic digestion to stop but for the suitable level of support to be afforded to charitable food redistribution.

But do you really want food that goes to an AD Operation?

No – clearly we would not want to use the food that physically arrives at an Anaerobic Digestion facility. What is critical is that food businesses take a prepared approach that anticipates and identifies what surplus food they may have and how to ensure this is made available for charity redistribution.

FareShare has recently provided some guidance to help businesses to do this but other approaches could be used.

What is the food waste/use hierarchy?

It is the logical and environmentally sustainable order of priority for the management of food. The chart below shows the waste hierarchy and where the unbalanced level of investment currently sits.

food waste hierarchy picture

The waste hierarchy is already enshrined in UK law, in the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011, which came into force from 29 March 2011 and follows the EU Waste Framework Directive. Article 4 of the revised EU Waste Framework Directive sets out five steps for dealing with waste, ranked according to environmental impact – the ‘waste hierarchy’.

Prevention, which offers the best outcomes for the environment, is at the top of the priority order, followed by preparing for re-use, recycling, other recovery (which would include Anaerobic Digestion) and disposal, in descending order of environmental preference.

Charity food redistribution is both a prevention and a re-use activity (depending on how the resource and activity is defined) but receives no financial subsidy or support from central government. Anaerobic Digestion is a disposal and energy generation activity and receives considerable funding.

What is the French Bill that I have heard about recently?

France has passed a law requiring all major food retailers to have in place the processes and procedures to divert their surpluses to charities. We agree with critics who say that this law without the corresponding support for charity infrastructure to be in place could just result in food being dumped on local charities resulting in poor practice and unsafe food handling. FareShare’s systems and processes exist to divert this food in a safe, sustainable, accountable and legal way. FareShare welcomes the debate around the bill and is seeking to use it to attract greater voluntary action from the food industry.

What is the Good Samaritan Act?

In the USA they have introduced legislation saying that provided a food donor gives food to a charity in good faith they cannot be held accountable for any future poor handling that leads to illness. While this has never been raised by the food businesses FareShare works with, we can see that it would be helpful for food service from canteens and restaurants.

What about supermarket waste?

This isn’t where the real waste volumes are however it is a high profile issue which all the major retailers are now seeking to tackle. We must avoid a rush to just dump this food on charities with poor food safety resulting which in turn leads to a greater reluctance within the food industry to divert surpluses.

That is why we have developed a simple app-based solution called FareShare Foodcloud which we are rolling out across Tesco stores with their financial support. Both FareShare and Tesco are hoping this will be adopted by other food businesses too.

Is any legislation planned?

On 9 September Kerry McCarthy MP is introducing a 10 minute Member’s Bill and is seeking support across all parties for what is a series of non political measures.

What is FareShare asking of the Government?

  1. A joined up approach across Government departments on the issue of diverting surplus food from waste to communities without energy policy acting as a barrier while recognising the health benefits.
  2. Time limited funding to establish a permanent legacy in order to generate a £250 million of annual support to good causes.
  3. Support to ensure food businesses are not out of pocket when they do the right thing via a limited and capped transport subsidy.
  4. An even playing field with anaerobic digestion.


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