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Two important but solvable issues in Britain are the issues of food waste and food poverty. 

Recent research has found that 9.5 million tonnes of food was wasted in the UK in 2018. Most of the waste comes from households, with the rest from businesses, organisations, and other institutions. This waste was valued at over £19 billion pound a year, linked to over 25 million tonnes of emissions, and totalled 15 billion wasted meals.

The government has previously stated it wants to cut food waste in half by 2030, saying it was “morally wrong, environmentally damaging, and costs money”. Feedback, a campaign group targeting environmental damage in relation to food production, asked the government to scale “action up a level” by bringing in laws to regulate business, such as mandating businesses to donate their surplus food. They explained that whilst the UK had made “significantly greater progress than many countries”, there are limits on how much can be achieved through voluntary action.

Between 2019 and 2020, there were 5 million households known to be ‘food insecure’, meaning they would struggle to meet their food costs. Over the previous year, the Trussell Trust supplied people with over 2.5 million three-day emergency food parcels. Around 40% of these were supplied to children. Furthermore, as of January this year, there were more than 1.7 million children eligible for free school meals. The crisis of Covid-19 has made these issues even more pertinent, as people already in food poverty have begun to struggle further. This was highlighted by the campaigns of footballer Marcus Rashford and the subsequent government U-turn over free school meals.

A government run network, in partnership with the private sector, charities, and local communities could tackle the crisis: a Food Waste Network (FWN). Businesses, organisations, institutions, and households encouraged and supported to redistribute their surplus food. The aim would be allowing those who face food poverty to obtain food at the point of need within your local community, not unlike picking up medication from your pharmacy or booking an appointment at your GP.

Businesses, with particularly high food surplus, such as supermarkets and chain restaurants could be made by law to hold onto (in a hygienic environment) any leftover safe to eat food.  Connected organisations would arrive and pick up the food, to be taken and distributed at local FWN sites.

Institutions, organisations and households would be supported and encouraged to donate any food they were planning to throw out. There would be a public information campaign to explain how the service works followed by the implementation of clearly marked drop off points, at supermarkets, off-licenses, schools, places of worship, pharmacies, hospitals, GP surgeries, universities, and offices etc.

FWN would be set up to make sure the new laws are of as little inconvenience as possible to organisations and the public, with a focus on efficient delivery. Areas with a particularly high surplus of food would send food to FWN services in areas with particularly low food stock. 

A small independent body would be set up to regulate the service, making sure all food is safe and kept in hygienic conditions, allergens are clearly labelled or explained to members of the public and to hand out fines and sanctions where appropriate to address complaints. The setting up and running of the service would be paid for through government funding.

Britain should set an example by directly tackling the crises of food waste and hunger, through a specific Food Waste Network. Access to food should be seen as a human right and should be treated as such.

Tyler is currently undertaking work experience at Bright Blue. Views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue. [Image: Adobe Stock]