Tag: food system

Why a post-COVID recovery must ensure a transformation of our food system

12th May 20 by Mia Watanabe

Food is a right, not a luxury, and it’s time for our food system to reflect this.

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Over recent weeks in the UK we have witnessed gallons of milk being poured down drains by independent farmers who are being refused collections by supermarkets. Vegetables are rotting in fields because we cannot guarantee safety and dignity to the low-paid migrant workforces on whom we depend to harvest this produce. Tonnes of food continues to be wasted all whilst thousands of people go hungry. Why? Because our food system, that places profit over livelihoods, is not equipped to handle a crisis. This system is fragile, and we are seeing it crumble before us.

It’s no question that our food system was broken already. This has only been exacerbated by the crisis: this system simultaneously produces masses of surplus whilst failing to feed everyone, with more and more people relying on food banks than ever before to compensate for this disaster. There has been a 73% increase in supplies being distributed by food banks over the past five years, and a 23% increase from 2018 to 2019 alone. Between 2010 and 2016, 4,000 small-scale farms in the UK closed, according to Defra. These are signs of a system that is not only failing but is systematically depriving the most vulnerable in our society of their basic right to food. In a post-COVID society under economic turmoil, these issues will only become more pertinent unless drastic action is taken to transform what, and how, we eat.

The UK’s food and farming industries employ 1 in 8 working people. Those who work in food service, however, saw their sector collapse overnight. With no guarantees to a fair wage and thousands of key workers in grocery stores and food processing plants left with no choice but to face the coronavirus head on, it is imperative that any efforts to recover from the pandemic places food issues at its centre. A transformation of our food system is necessary if we are to build back better.

For many of us, our experiences of food in lockdown have been mixed. There’s been a reported 34% reduction of household food waste since lockdown started as a result of individuals being more careful about the food they consume, with visits to grocery stores becoming a somewhat perilous excursion. We’ve seen radical forms of cooperation and care-giving flourish through mutual aid networks whose actions have involved distributing free meals and delivering shopping for neighbours. Bread making has introduced an entry point to baking for many new cooks and as some people find daily catharsis through punching their sourdough, others are rage baking with their communities. Whether it’s shortening supply chains, or reducing long journeys for livestock, these resourceful, and often radical, adaptations to the way we eat under lockdown should be seen as a foundation to the world we want to rebuild.

To do this, we must challenge our “barriers of imagination”. Currently, less than 20% of Britons are optimistic that the quality and the environmental impact of the food they eat will get better in the future. Even less are optimistic about their access to healthy food. In a society that is so pessimistic about the food we eat, a just recovery for our food systems is an opportunity to imagine big and better. We must ensure we have a national food strategy that works for people, not profit. We need fair wages for agricultural workers whose labour, as we are now witnessing, provides a backbone to feeding our communities. We need access to healthy food for everyone, leaving no one hungry. And finally, we must pandemic-proof our food system to ensure that this does not happen again. Food is a right, not a luxury, and it’s time for our food system to reflect this.

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The global pandemic means that our work in getting fresh, nutritious produce to people has never been more critical. We need your support to help make this happen. Any funds raised now will be committed to our COVID-19 food rescue, preparation and redistribution work.

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Where and how can I donate my surplus food?

26th Jan 18 by Christina O'Sullivan

Got surplus food and want to feed bellies not bins? 

Below is a list of organisations who can receive and use, or otherwise help with, donations of surplus food. Some of these organisations are active only in London, while others operate in various regions throughout the UK.  For more information please visit the websites of the relevant organisation.


FareShare accepts food from businesses and uses any stock that is food safe, including those requiring chillers, freezers, and ambient storage. They products such as those with packaging errors, short-dated food, seasonal stock, manufacturing errors, damages, etc., including meat, fish, eggs and dairy products; fruit and vegetables; chilled food, such as ready meals or drinks; frozen food, or chilled food that has been blast frozen; ambient goods, such as pasta, tins and cereals; and bakery. They do not accept cooked food from events. They have hubs all over the country and the FareShare Go Scheme connects supermarkets with local charity or community groups.

FoodCycle runs community events to cook and serve donated food to those in need across the UK. They work with major food retailers including Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, and with local independent retailers and markets.

Neighbourly puts local stores that have surplus in direct contact with the charities and projects that can get the food to people who need it. Works with M&S, Lidl, and others.

Real Junk Food Project is a collaborative effort between catering professionals and activists to bring about a radical change in the food system. RJFP intercept food that is past its expiration date, prepare the food and serve it in their cafés on a pay as you feel basis.  There may be an RJFP open near you, or coming soon or you could open your own. Contact them via their Facebook page to find out.

Olio is an app that works with shops and cafés to reduce food waste. Their Food Waste Hero (FWH) programme involves OLIO matching volunteers with shops or cafes. They will collect any unsold surplus food at the end of the day and share within the local community. In addition, Olio’s app enables cafes or shops to upload information about surplus food directly. Local residents will be notified when the shop or cafe shares its unsold food, and they can message the shop or cafe to confirm collection. Finally, shops or cafes can host a drop box, a plastic OLIO box placed in the shop or café so that neighbours can exchange food without having to arrange for a doorstep collection.

Plan Zheroes accepts big and small food donations from restaurants, catering companies, supermarkets, food stores, stalls, etc. either regularly or occasionally. Businesses are matched with local charities who transport the food.

Too Good to Go is a food sharing app that collaborates with restaurants and food businesses around the country to redistribute their excess at the end of the day. Surplus produce is sold at a reduced price for the app users, who pick up their meal at a specific time (usually at the end of business hours).

Community Fridges exist across the country. They are run by different groups and organisations but all collaborate with local businesses and community groups to provide donated surplus food for local people.


City Harvest collects nutritious surplus food from all segments of the food industry including restaurants, grocers, manufacturers, wholesalers, hotels and caterers in London and donates the produce to redistribution char


Community Food Enterprise is a social enterprise. They collect surplus food and redistribute it to community groups in East London. CFE greatly needs surplus tinned fruit, cereal, coffee, cooking oils – fruit and vegetable donations would also be appreciated. They are always looking for volunteers.

DayOld is a food surplus social enterprise tackling food waste and food poverty in London. DayOld sells surplus baked goods (from brownies to cinnamon rolls to artisan loaves of bread) through treat boxes, office pop-ups, and event catering. Their baked goods are surplus, collected from artisan bakeries the previous day, preventing them from going to waste. Their profits become cash donations to charities addressing child hunger.

The Felix Project Works with supermarkets, wholesalers, and retailers to distribute donated food. As of April 2017 the organization will provide fruit, vegetables, bakery and dairy products, as well as dried goods. It does not

provide meat or fish, or accept or deliver supplies beyond the use by date.

Save the date café are an East London group fighting to prevent food waste. They turn surplus food into delicious meals and serve them on a pay as you feel basis.

The People’s Kitchen are community feasts held around London for people to share skills and food. The feasts rely on surplus donations from various retailers.

London Street Food Bank  A co-operative of volunteers who collect and distribute non-perishable foods for low I

ncome or non-income families. Also includes a group of volunteers who collect daily leftover food, such as sandwiches, rolls, salads etc. from retail food outlets and distributes them to the homeless on the streets of London.  (See also listing below)

North London Action for the Homeless accepts donations of tinned vegetarian food and accepts large donations of quality, fresh ingredients. In particular, they need regular donations of tea, sugar, squash, oil, long life milk, vegetable stock, tinned tomatoes, pasta and lentils.

South East

UK Harvest is a perishable food rescue operation that collects quality excess food from commercial outlets and delivers it to charities in West Sussex. They collect from all kinds of businesses; from fruit & veg markets, to corporate companies to film and TV shoots. If your business has excess food, you can sign up to donate here. They do not provide meat or fish, or accept or deliver supplies beyond the use by date

South West

Exeter Food Action rescues excess food from shops and suppliers and redistributes it to local charity organisations. They are always looking for new donation sources.

North West

The Bread and Butter Thing offer a deeply discounted food service to its community in Greater Manchester. They accept donations from local and national suppliers as well as from community members and take one off as well as regular donations.










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