May 2022

The future of surplus food redistribution in the UK: Reimagining a ‘win-win’ scenario

Surplus food redistribution (SFR) is hailed as a ‘win-win’ strategy to address both household food insecurity and food waste. However, SFR is condemned as being a ‘band-aid’ solution that addresses neither the fundamental socio-economic causes of poverty, nor the systematic roots of food waste. This research aims to set an agenda for the future of SFR in the UK for the next five to 10 years, including policy interventions required to achieve this future.

The future of SFR lies in a truly sustainable food system that meets the needs of the people and delivers socio-economic benefits whilst respecting planetary boundaries. In this future, SFR is no longer required as a solution for food waste or household food insecurity. Finally, the study identifies five pathways leading to this future: i) rejecting the SFR ‘win-win’ narrative ii) tackling systematic food overproduction iii) eradicating poverty iv) delivering food security within planetary boundaries, and v) balancing uneven power distribution amongst food system actors. The proposed interventions are relevant to food and waste policies, and offer insights to transition pathways for sustainable food and other socio-technical systems.

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