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100 million extra meals to combat the cost of living crisis…you would think it would be a no brainer

George Wright, Chief Executive | FareShare

3 min read Partner content

It’s back-to-school, but here’s a hard truth: one in four of our teachers are secretly feeding their pupils because they are starving. So, whilst teachers dig into their own pockets, we ask the government: where’s the food?

I’m the new CEO of FareShare, the UK’s largest food redistribution charity. We work with the food industry to supply good to eat food, that would otherwise go to waste, to over 8,500 charities.

This network reaches every constituency across all four nations and consists of thousands of groups that provide after school, holiday, and breakfast clubs to children.

The survey of teachers we conducted is another indicator of how hard it is for many children today. As the cost-of-living soars, schools are increasingly shifting from hosting breakfast clubs to directing parents towards food banks and community support systems.

The demand is overwhelming, and our current capacity has been stretched too thin. We have 1,500 charities waiting for our support because we can’t access enough food. A significant portion of these directly benefit children.

Meanwhile, in fields and factories across the nation, surplus food that could be used for social good goes to waste. Through FareShare’s groundbreaking Surplus with Purpose scheme, we work tirelessly to change this.

88% of the public wants surplus food to go to charities, (but DEFRA have not renewed funding to back this)”

In 2019, we took a £1.9m Government grant and turned it into 4,447 tonnes of predominantly fresh, nutritious food for redistribution, while simultaneously preventing the wasteful emissions of 16,000 tonnes of CO2e. This helped us provide millions more meals to over 1 million people across the UK.

We did this by working with farmers and manufacturers to rescue surplus food and redistribute it to the community sector. It’s not rocket science, it’s just ingenuity and logistics. Despite the scheme’s overwhelming success, two recommendations from the EFRA committee, and the support of 127 MPs, Defra have not renewed funding since the trial ended.

Meanwhile, the cost of living continues to cause immeasurable pain for households across the UK. YouGov polling shows 88% of the public wants surplus food to go to charities, and well over 100,000 people have signed a petition backing funding.

We know from a report by the University of Hertfordshire that for every £1 spent through FareShare, £6 is generated in social return on investment. Last year we delivered a quarter billion in social value. We’re calling for a fraction of this. £25 million in government support would allow us to scale up our work with farmers and deliver 100 million meals via the charity sector.

You’d think the government would jump at this opportunity. We’re not even asking for new money. They could pay for it by diverting 3.3% of Anaerobic Digestion subsidies, dormant assets, or the sovereign wealth grant. Yet Defra maintains that there are no plans to provide funding to our sector, despite having committed to funding in the 25 Year Environment Plan, and the Resource and Waste Strategy.

So, back to our question: where’s the food? The answer: 3 million tonnes of it, the equivalent of 7 billion meals, goes to waste on our farms and in our factories. At a time of so much need, it’s a no brainer.

All we need is an act of leadership and a joined up government to turn this problem into a solution.

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