No Food Left Behind


By Michele Bacigalupo

Photos and images courtesy of James Darling, FareShare.

There is no valid reason as to why food should ever go to waste, especially when we think about how many people suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Globally, almost 805 million people experience symptoms of severe hunger everyday. That means that one out of every nine people does not have enough food on their plate.

In the UK alone, good food for roughly 800 million meals is wasted each year in the food industry. This is “surplus food,” i.e. food that cannot be sold anymore but is perfectly fit for consumption and within its “use by” or “best before” date. Food becomes surplus for a variety of reasons such as incorrect labeling, short shelf-life, or problems with overstock. Meanwhile, such wasted food could be used to help feed the 5.8 million people in the UK who live in a state of deep poverty.

FareShare, a UK-based charity that fights against hunger and food waste, currently provides over 13.2 million meals to people from sources of “hidden food.”

Maria Olesen, Marketing and Communications Manager at FareShare, tells BTR, “The food we rescue is used by charities and community groups to provide nutritious meals to vulnerable people. If it didn’t come to us, it would be wasted; it might end up in landfill or anaerobic digestion or animal feed. Some of these solutions are much greener than landfill, but we are working hard to ensure that good food should always go to people first.”

When asked about FareShare’s methods for bringing acquired food to people in need, Olesen said, “We rely on an army of volunteers throughout our 20 regional centres to sort the food and prepare orders.”

The process of transferring the food to the charities requires an enormous amount of effort on the part of the volunteers.

“Every day, a group of volunteers in our warehouses load our refrigerated vans and deliver the food to charities and community projects. These may include breakfast clubs, luncheon clubs for older people, women’s refuges, hostels, and shelters. The organizations predominantly cook the food on-site and turn it into nutritious meals for beneficiaries.“

“By working with this network of grassroot organisations, we ensure that the food goes where it’s needed most. We save our charities money, which can then be reinvested into support services to help get people back on their feet.”

The fight to end hunger and food waste is one that requires precise strategic planning and continuous development.

As for what FareShare has planned for the future, Olesen says, “We are introducing collection services both from our existing depots and from remote satellites that will be established in areas we currently don’t reach.”

According to Olesen, in 2014 FareShare provided food to more than 1,700 community organizations and charities, which went toward 13.2 million meals.

“We see more and more charities coming to us for food. Our biggest challenge is securing more food to meet this increased demand,” Olesen explains. “We’ll continue to work hard to target the food industry to get more food partners on board. We need to ensure that the food industry continues to see us as a key partner in the management of their surplus food.”