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Affordable food schemes

Dru Haynes

April 2021

Food surplus redistribution charity, The Bread and Butter Thing (TBBT) is currently working with Durham County Council as part of their planned expansion across the North East. For just £7.50, TBBT fills members’ shopping bags with a minimum of £35 worth of goods made up of quality fresh food and store cupboard staples from supermarkets. The scheme aims to make life more affordable for people on a low income, reduce food waste and build stronger communities by using an innovative and self-sustaining approach to the redistribution of surplus food and non-food items.

Food surplus occurs when the supply of food exceeds demand and there are many different reasons for this:

  • Over-production – it can be difficult for producers to estimate seasonal demand for the quantity of food to grow/make.
  • Imperfect/off-cuts – foods are discarded because they don’t look ‘perfect’ or not as attractive as they ‘should’. Additionally, ‘off-cuts are discarded as they don't fit standard packaging sizes.
  • ‘Best Before Dates’ – many people discard food when it has passed its ‘best before date’ not knowing it can usually safely be eaten after this date.
  • Damaged packaging – the food might be thrown away simply because the packaging has been damaged during manufacture/transportation.

Waste and resources charity WRAP highlight the scale of the problem of food wastage in the UK. Their research shows:

  • Annual food waste from UK households, hospitality, and foodservice, food manufacture, retail and wholesale sectors in 2018 was estimated at around 9.5 million tonnes – the equivalent of £19 billion!
  • Of the 43 million tonnes of food purchased in the UK, the amount wasted is around 10 million tonnes! By weight, household waste makes up 70% of all food wasted in the UK - 60% of that wasted food could be eaten.

The benefits of reducing food waste are huge:

  • Financial - in 2018, UK households threw away 6.6 million tonnes of food, compared to 8.1m in 2007. Excellent news? Yes but…4.5 million tonnes of this could have been eaten creating a saving worth £14 billion or around £60 per month for the average family with children.
  • Environmental – 4.5 million tonnes of food generates 5.3 million tonnes of CO2 a year - the same as taking 2.4 million cars off the road for a year.
  • Energy conservation – as well as reducing the pollution produced by wasted food, the energy and resources from growing, manufacturing, transporting, and selling of it could be reduced - less demand for food production means fewer resources are needed.