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Tesco Fighting Food Waste by Redistributing Surplus to People in Need

Image credit: FareShare

UK grocery giant Tesco has announced a new scheme to mitigate food waste, where surplus food from its stores is redistributed to people in need.

Tesco has partnered with UK food redistribution charity FareShare and Irish social enterprise FoodCloud to trial the FareShare FoodCloud app in the UK. Tesco has already been working in different areas of the supply chain to tackle food waste — including through its existing partnership with FareShare — and this new scheme will mean eliminating the need to throw away food in Tesco stores that could otherwise be eaten.

Using the FareShare FoodCloud app, Tesco store managers will alert charities to the amount of surplus food they have at the end of each day. The charity then confirms it wants the food, picks it up free of charge from the store and turns it into meals for those in need. Beneficiaries will come from the wide range of charities FareShare works with, including homeless hostels, women’s refuges and breakfast clubs for disadvantaged children.

FoodCloud is supplying its technology and expertise developed from its scheme in Ireland, while FareShare brings its knowledge of the UK charity redistribution market and its experience of providing food to an increasing network of frontline organizations that offer hot meals and other support for people in food poverty. All charities will be supported by FareShare to ensure they are using this surplus food safely.

The scheme is already in place at Tesco stores in Ireland, and will now be piloted in 10 stores around the UK.

Tesco says recent figures reveal 55,400 tonnes of food was thrown away from its stores and distribution centers in the UK over the past year, of which roughly 30,000 tonnes could otherwise have been eaten.

Tesco is committed to ensuring the upfront work they do to make the scheme effective across their own stores is shared with other retailers and food companies.

“No one wants to throw away food which could otherwise be eaten,” says CEO Dave Lewis. “We don’t throw away much food in our own operations, but even the 1 percent we do throw away amounts to 55,400 tonnes. To reduce this amount even further, we’ll be working in partnership with FareShare FoodCloud to ensure any food left unsold in our stores at the end of each day is given to local charities.

“This is potentially the biggest single step we’ve taken to cut food waste, and we hope it marks the start of eliminating the need to throw away edible food in our stores.”

Tesco is the only supermarket to publish its own independently assessed food waste data. The latest publication showed that the amount of food thrown away had dipped from 56,580 tonnes in 2013/14 to 55,400 tonnes in 2014/15.The food most commonly thrown away in Tesco stores is from the bakery, followed by fresh fruit and vegetables and convenience items like pre-packaged sandwiches and salads.

“FoodCloud has already been successful in connecting food outlets with charities in Ireland through our unique technological solution for surplus food redistribution,” Iseult Ward, co-founder of FoodCloud, said. “Our work in Ireland means that over 300 charities have already benefited from using the platform. It has helped us create a robust model that we have translated for the UK market. We are delighted to be working in partnership with both FareShare and Tesco so that we can bring our solution in to the UK to ensure that more charities can benefit. We are looking forward to the developments that will come about as a result of this trial.”

FareShare FoodCloud is the latest innovation in Tesco’s work with FareShare on the provision of surplus food. The partnership spans over three years and has made food available from the Tesco supply chain, distribution centers and Dotcom centers. The non-profit says this has seen four-and-a-half million meals’ worth of surplus food donated to support nearly 2,000 charities and community groups across the UK.

Across the food supply chain, around 1 percent of food waste occurs within supermarket operations. The rest is thrown away earlier in the chain — in suppliers’ fields and factories — or in customers’ own homes.

Tesco says it sees a shared responsibility when it comes to tackling food waste. It is working with its suppliers to cut food waste in the supply chain, and is helping customers to reduce the amount of food thrown away in their homes; the grocer ended Buy One Get One Free offers on fruit and vegetables in the UK in April 2014, and has worked with the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to include ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ hints and tips on the packaging of a number of fruit and vegetable products.

While food waste around the world is a systemic problem, a number of recent efforts have focused on grocers. In December, the UK’s first “social supermarket” opened in London — the first in a project aimed at reducing food waste as well as supporting low-income households. Surplus food from some of Britain’s largest supermarkets (such as Asda, Tesco and M&S) is being resold at highly discounted prices to food-insecure locals. And in a landmark move late last month, France's parliament voted to forbid major supermarkets from destroying unsold food, encouraging them to donate to charities or to farms for animal feed, as part of a national campaign against food waste; an estimated that up to 66 pounds of food are wasted per person each year. The French government announced in 2012 that it wants to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2025.


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