Although Britain is the seventh richest country in the world, many people suffer from food poverty (1) . Food poverty is by defined as the inability to afford, or to have access to food to make up a healthy diet. It is about the quality of food as well as quantity (2). It is estimated that at least 4.7 million live in food poverty in the UK (3).
Strategies to tackle food poverty
- Food banks- supported by the community, religious organisations and business such as supermarkets & food companies. Due to many people struggling to afford food, it is estimated that over half a million people in the UK are reliant on food parcels (1).
- Soup kitchens run by local churches & various other religious groups.
- Subsidised canteen food at schools for children from low income households.
- Healthy start vouchers- These are worth £3.10 a week per child to spend on milk or fresh fruit and vegetables. They are for people who are receiving benefits and are either pregnant or have children under the age of four; or who are pregnant and under 18.
- Cooking groups run by councils and charities where participants are taught how to cook various meals with a tight budget and are given are free meal.
- The local discretionary social fund-Certain councils provide local residents who are in financial difficulty, money which can help people get food and may also help you to get items to help you cook.
I believe it’s morally wrong to throw away or spoil edible food purely on the basis that it can’t be sold. Therefore I feel that food poverty could be significantly reduced if food outlets were legally required to donate unwanted food to charities and food banks. Now don’t get me wrong. I believe that as well as supermarkets, restaurants, bakeries, canteens and food manufacturers should also have a legal obligation to donate food.
So much wastage!
- Supermarkets are aware that the amount of food waste generated is unacceptable and seven supermarkets have agreed to reveal how much food they bin each year. The first to take the plunge of transparency is Tesco’s who have revealed that 28,500 tonnes of food was binned in the first six months of last year alone (3).
- 600,000 tonnes (41%) of the waste from pubs, restaurants, hotels and quick service restaurants is food waste (4).
- Food waste at the manufacturing level amounts to 4.9Mt (5). From my own experience, I have seen first-hand how much wastage occurs within food manufacturing companies. When I was working in the technical department, it was not uncommon for barely touched meals were thrown in the bin. As well as this, sometimes if was not visually perfect but was fine to eat, it would get thrown in the bin as well.
Vive la France!
My proposed idea to help tackle food poverty is inspired by the change in laws in France. This year, French supermarkets have been banned from throwing food away and spoiling unsold food. The stores are now required to donate unwanted food to charities and food banks. If companies defy the law, they could incur fines up to 3750 Euros. However, this law only applies to any supermarket with a footprint of 400 square metres or larger.
Benefits of my proposal
- Food charities will not only be able to feed more people but also increase the quality and diversity of food they get and distribute.
- Food outlets will be more careful and realistic about the amount of stock they order at one time to meet the purchasing demands of customers and avoid financial loss from waste.
- They will be less burden on suppliers to overproduce food.
- Food not locally supplied may be more likely to be less fresh because of a longer transportation time, and thus have a shorter time on the shelves to be sold or used. Therefore to avoid wastage due to my proposed law, food outlets may choose to be more reliant on local suppliers, thus strengthening the local economy and also providing customers with more nutritionally complete food.
- Less edible food sent to landfill sites.
- Less pest control issues caused by waste around food outlets.
Issues with proposal
- Policing-enforcing the law may be difficult because of the sheer amount of food outlets there are in the UK.
- What fine would be suitable to avoid food outlets flouting the law?
- If something is wrong with the food donated by a company to a food charity, who is responsible for food safety? Is it still the food outlet?
I truly believe there is enough food in this country to feed everyone but its distribution needs improving. I think that my proposed idea could make a positive difference in how we tackle food poverty in this country. How it will be enforced is still a work in progress but I do believe there are great benefits to this proposed idea. It would be great to hear your thoughts on this!