Surplus food distribution struggles

Initiatives which simultaneously contribute to food waste reduction as well as distribute surplus food to those in need are to be wholeheartedly welcomed, however, new research has highlighted the struggles that UK food charities face in order to serve people in need.

Neighbourly questioned 218 charities and volunteer organisations across the UK which regularly distribute surplus food to those in need. It found that despite being relied upon by 30,000 people every week, many of these organisations lack essential capabilities needed to deliver meals consistently and in times of peak need. For example:
• 47.8 per cent of organisations need more storage space
• 40.7 per cent need transport to collect donations
• 36.8 per cent lack refrigeration capabilities
• 33 per cent need better funding
• 28.7 per cent need a more regular supply of contributions.

Notably, lack of volunteers and retention of staff were markedly less of an issue.

The findings have been published to coincide with the start of a review of the ‘Guidance on the application of date labels to food’, which commenced last week at a cross industry workshop hosted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Neighbourly, and will explore whether any improvements in food safety labelling and guidance, or better education around it, might increase the volume of surplus fresh food donated and used by the voluntary sector.

Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA, says, “The FSA supports all efforts to make sure as much food surplus as possible is safely redistributed. That’s why we are starting the process, working with Defra and WRAP, of reviewing the date marking guidance, the aim of which is to make the guidance clearer for organisations wanting to redistribute surplus food.”

With some of the barriers facing such vital redistribution organisations identified in the survey, hopefully ways to overcome them will soon follow – including better guidance on date labelling.

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