As 10% of humans are affected by hunger 1/3 of all food is wasted

Globally, one-third of food is wasted, estimated to cost £2.9 trillion a year. That’s enough food to feed every hungry person in the world twice over

The most infuriating contradiction of our time is also the easiest to solve.

The contradiction of surplus food and surplus hunger attributed to food waste is a disgrace imposed by corporations whose sole job it is to supply food.

14 million people in the UK have experienced food poverty, of which 4 million are children and 54 percent of households.

288,000 tonnes of food equivalent to 190 million meals, are discarded by supermarkets in the UK every year while the top 10 supermarket chains donate less than nine per cent of surplus food for human consumption. Just 24,242 tons was passed on to those in need out of the 288,000 tons of unsold food approaching its use-by or best-before date. The remaining 263,758 is used for animal feed, pulped in crushers, left to rot or dumped in landfill.

Supermarkets are discarding good food into a bin bag instead of feeding hungry children a few streets away.

A food landfill site

For decades supermarkets have been disposing of wonky fruit and vegetables solely on cosmetic grounds, produce such as knobbly apples, deformed carrots and dented potatoes are discarded causing as much as 40 percent of fresh produce to be rejected by supermarkets, leaving farmers to dump the ones that don’t look right but are perfectly edible and nutritious. ‘Ugly’ fruit and veg, with issues over size, shape and blemishes are causing perfectly edible produce to be rejected by retailers while surveys show 87 percent of consumers would be willing to choose wonky fruit.

Daniel Zeichner, shadow minister for environment, food and rural affairs, said: “The amount of food that goes to waste is a scandal when millions of children in this country are going hungry. The government has been too slow to recognise what is happening because it has the wrong priorities. Instead of simply wishing the issue away, ministers should look at how other countries report surpluses and waste, because what we’re doing clearly isn’t working.”

A spectacularly wonky Aubergine

In some cases, supermarkets are actively hindering the distribution of surplus food, David France, the manager of the Lancaster-based community food club Eggcup, said it was impossible to get hold of the food without the retailers’ permission. “As a fairly new organisation with a tremendous level of growth, we have not been able to establish relationships with larger organisations,” he said. “It is ridiculous how much food is being thrown away because retailers have contracts with larger [charities], which aren’t always able to use that surplus.”

Roughly half the food we purchase every year comes from supermarkets’ own brand, and it is estimated that they make up more than 72 percent of edible surplus food in supermarkets’ supply chains, according to the Anthesis research.

However, with suppliers often packing own-label products for multiple retailers, it is not clear who has ownership of the waste, and it is difficult to get permission from each supermarket involved to hand on unwanted items. Tesco and Asda currently only allow suppliers to hand out surplus own-label food to small charities via FareShare and Company Shop or if audited by FareShare. Morrisons allows its suppliers to give direct handouts to a wider number of named groups, but charities and suppliers say they have to cut individual deals rather than gaining easy access via a national mandate.

Globally, one-third of food is wasted, estimated to cost £2.9 trillion a year. That’s enough food to feed every hungry person in the world twice over, in fact the US waste half of all produce annually. This waste is not only a social or humanitarian concern but an environmental one also. When we waste food, we waste all the energy and water it took to grow, harvest, transport and package the nourishment and if food is left to rot it produces Methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.

It’s clear that we’re not adequately distributing the food we produce. It’s also clear that the environmental costs in water, energy and space to grow food that is not eaten is more than our environment can take.

Food Donated by Supermarkets (2020)

Tesco: 13.7%

Aldi: 13.3%

Co-op: 11.4%

Waitrose: 8.9%

Marks & Spencer: 7.9%

Morrisons: 5.4%

Asda: 5.4%

Lidl: 4.2%

Sainsburys: 3.8%

Iceland: 1.7%