Why SURPLUS food is important for feeding vulnerable people

There have been a number of arguments in the press and on social media arguing that the use of surplus food to feed food insecure people is at best only a short-term solution and at worst harmful (e.g., Caraher 2017).  I would agree that the hunger that is caused by poverty is not only not being addressed by the UK government (see Blake 2015, and a more recent update of the article published by GMPA) but in some cases is being enhanced by current government policy (e.g., a benefits system that has built in delays, draconian sanctions, programme cuts that impact on the most vulnerable). In reading the argument, however, a number of issues stand out as needing further clarification and interrogation.  Firstly, there is a lack of understanding about food surplus in terms of what it is.  Secondly, there is misconception about how food surplus becomes food for bellies as it travels through the charity sector. Thirdly, there is an overly narrow understanding of the value of surplus food both for charities and those whom they support. These issues are explored in this blog post.

What is surplus food?

In the process of producing the food that we purchase, food is also diverted from the commercial supply chain before it reaches a point of sale or at point of sale for a myriad of reasons.   For example, the unpredictability of the weather may lead a farmer to plan for risk-minimizing scenarios (e.g., low harvest and loss of quality in transportation) in order to ensure that contractual agreements with a retailer are met, then if there is a good year, and a crop is bigger than expected there is excess. This excess production becomes a surplus.  Supermarket contracts, which are made in advance of harvest, offer security to the farmer, but they are also based on exclusivity. As a result, the food produced in excess of the contract becomes food that is not sell-able.  It is still edible. The difference between the apple that is sent to the supermarket and the apple that is unsold in terms of its nutritional value is indiscernible. This is not the only scenario. Food also is excluded from the commercial system when the packaging, for example is not printed correctly or is the wrong colour or is damaged in transport. This is also surplus food.  Sometimes food may exit the commercial food chain because a retailer cancels or reduces an order after the producer has completed production. When volumes are large, producers sell this food to discount retailers who sell the items off cheaply, but in order to be profitable these chains require very large volumes. In such cases the food is rescued from becoming surplus by the discount stores.  In doing so this almost-surplus food becomes discount food.   It is not profitable for these stores to take small volumes, which may still be a lot of food, and as a result, the food remains part of the commercial food sector, but at the same time unsellable. It becomes surplus.

Food that is surplus can also be considered as up-stream or longer-life surplus (e.g. from food producers, well within its use-by and best-before dates) and last-mile, or short-life, surplus (e.g., from restaurants, supermarkets, caterers and other food businesses). All types of food items from vegetables to steak and lobster to crisps and candy can find their way into the surplus pool, the pool of food that could be sold, but for some reason is not.  In contrast, food that we purchase or otherwise source and take home to eat is not surplus food. Its purchase moves it beyond the commercial supply chain.  It has achieved its commercial objective of being sold.   Likewise, purchased food donated to a food charity through a collection drive is also not surplus.  Like the food we take home, this is food that has left the commercial supply chain through the means that was intended, namely its purchase.  Food purchased by organizations for consumption is also not surplus food, because again it is food that has achieved its commercial aim of being sold. Eating is not a commercial objective although it may be a social objective or an environmental objective.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that food is surplus and as a result still good for consumption, much of this surplus food is discarded by the food producing sector.  Approximately 4 million tons of food per year is wasted in the food manufacture, retail and wholesale sectors (WRAP, 2015).  We do know that some surplus food is being diverted from becoming waste, but we do not know how many organisations in the UK use surplus food as there is no requirement by the UK government for businesses to report the volume of surplus that is produced (although a few report this voluntarily).  Likewise, there is also no national reporting on how surplus food is redistributed (e.g., directly or via another organisation or a combination of both) to community organisations and then on to users or how much is redistributed.  Our best estimates come from FareShare, which is the largest surplus food business-to-community-organisation redistributor in the UK. For those more than 6000 community organisations in the FareShare network, approximately 52% of the total food used by these organisations comes from surplus food, 36% is purchased, and only approximately 10% is from donations.

How is food surplus distributed to those in need?

Surplus food is saved from becoming food waste when it is redistributed from the commercial supply chain to people who can eat it.  The community support sector (e.g., voluntary organisations, social enterprises, community groups) are the most secure, safe and organised way that food insecure people can access surplus food in the UK.  The simplest, but least reliable in terms of supply and quality and the most time intensive for the community organistion is for the organisation to negotiate directly with the source of the surplus. Alternatively, organisations can use a redistribution supplier to access surplus food, such as FareShare, Plan Zhereos, City Harvest, among others.  FareShare, redistributes food using two approaches.  Approximately half of the organisations receive deliveries of surplus from FareShare, with the remainder participating in the FareShare FoodCloud, which digitally connects a the community organisation with a local food retailor.  The organisation then selects what they want, can transport, and can store from what is available for their organisation.  City Harvest only provides delivery, while Plan Zhereos relies primarily on the digital method for connecting organisations to surplus food.

Food using organisations are the front line for distributing food to those in need.  We do not have a clear idea of the number of organisations who use food to support those in need in the UK as again data is not systematically collected.  FareShare does collect information about those organisations who use their service, which provides an idea of the diversity of these organisations.   Most of the organisations (78%) indicate that food provision is their main remit, meaning that for 22% food is not the main purpose of the organisation, but instead food is used to “get people in the door”.  Those organisations that see their remit as food provision also often offer other support that is not food related alongside their food projects, such as health screening, day-care, housing support, mental health and addiction services, benefits support, and so forth. FareShare estimates that approximately 412,000 meals are distributed through community organisations each week, or more than 21 million meals in 2015.

There is a widely held presumption that organisations that use surplus food to provide food to those in need do so through what has become understood to be the “foodbank model”.  This model involves giving those in need food parcels that are taken home to be cooked and eaten.  The Trussell Trust is the largest umbrella organisation supporting this form of food distribution, with approximately 400 community organisations subscribing to their model.  Not all organisations who provide an emergency food parcel operate under the Trussell Trust umbrella.  Moreover, surplus food does not tend to make up the core of the parcel, which generally comes from consumer donations or from purchase by the organisation.  Organisations may supplement the basic parcel with surplus food either directly into the parcel or in other ways that offer choice, such as a take as you need food table.  Finally, foodbanks frequently sit within organisations who also offer other community based programmes and avenues for accessing food. FareShare estimates that they provide about 56% of the food their partner community organisations use.  Comparatively 11% is from donations and the remainder is purchased by the organisation from a food retailer.

Many organisation offer other food programmes and activities to a wider segment of the population, beyond those who have an emergency need, but who may still be food insecure. Of the more than 6 thousand organisation that use FareShare as their source of surplus food, remembering that surplus food is not the only source of food used by charities, only 17% run food banks, while 40% run some form of community café project.  The remainder includes other activities such as cooking activities with adults and children, meals delivered to people’s homes, and community food tables as well as activities where a meal or snack may also be offered.

What is the value of surplus food?

Surplus food provides great value to the organisations who receive this food as well as the people they serve.  Research with organisations accessing food through the FareShare network indicates that each week organisations save approximately $152 per week because they do not have to purchase food for their programmes (see the NATCEN research report).  These organisations also say that they can then use this savings to invest in other activities, staff and resources needed to support their communities or to continue to operate.  About one fifth of the organisations said that they would be forced to reduce the quality of the food they provided if the no longer were able to access surplus food and nearly just as many said they would no longer be able to operate at all if surplus food was no longer available.

Those on the receiving end of projects where surplus food is used also felt a number of benefits as a result of the projects that are offered.  These benefits include access to food that they would not be able to buy themselves, such as eating more fruits and vegetables.  Clients also indicated that they experienced improvements in physical and mental wellbeing as a result in participation in the programmes.  Almost all clients who receive a meal, 92%, said that being able to have a meal at the service helps them ‘face the day ahead’ and 82% said that the meal makes them feel part of a community. Finally, for a significant number, 75%, access to surplus food through a community organisation means that they are able to save money on already tight household budgets (NatCen).   For some, 39%, the access to food through community organisations who use surplus food, is all that stands between them and hunger or debt.  Community organisations also report that food gets people through the door, which then allows the organisation to support those in their communities to find employment, manage their finances, exercise, find the care that they need to support mental health issues, reduce dependency on drugs and alcohol, and so forth.

Lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater

Surplus food is food that is still good food to eat, but for some–usually human produced– reason, has become surplus to the needs of the commercial food sector.  Community organisations that use surplus food also rely on other food sources to meet their organisation’s overall food needs including purchasing food and relying on donations.   Community organisations use surplus food in a variety of ways, often through a variety of projects, and often alongside other support services. Those who access this food experience important benefits from being able to eat this food that include nutritional and economic benefit, but also other social benefits.  Moreover these benefits also extend into their communities and British society more widely.

These benefits should not be interpreted as a free pass to government to ignore how its policies contribute to the causes of poverty or its role in creating divisions in communities. While surplus food in and of itself will not solve the problems of food poverty, its use by community organisations enables wellbeing and community resilience in ways that extend beyond the meal that it provides. Surplus food enables community organisations to support and maintain communities and the people within them in ways that are sensitive to the needs of those communities. At present the balance between what is the responsibility of the government and what can be better achieved through community involvement needs greater untangling.  As a nation, however, we must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water by rejecting the use of surplus food as a means for supporting community organisations who support vulnerable people.


A shorter version of this piece appeared in a Greater Manchester Poverty Action Newsletter (28/6/2017).

11 thoughts on “Why SURPLUS food is important for feeding vulnerable people

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  6. Megan

    I agree that surplus food could add value to feeding everyone (not just those on lower incomes – an important distinction by the way) and that value could be achieved if the supply related to quality of the food not the distribution of food – unfortunately on the frontline that latter applies and therefore surplus food is more often a hinderence than a help.

    Your summation seems to support surplus food services because they are there and able to connect to the voluntary sector, who in turn have contact with people who need food – as such a poor food service for poor people. Interestingly, you indicate that organisations that are none food are using food to attract their client group – we all should be cautious about the motives of such services…anyway back to the supply of surplus food and how it really rolls out.

    My organisation has conducted over 3 years research and practice into food poverty and its responses and we are acutely aware of how surplus food is ‘used’ to pretend that food poverty has attendant services that are feeding people…so let me provide you with some facts from the frontline and see if we can agree to the value of surplus food in its role of treating food poverty or as we would claim propping it up.

    Regarding Fareshare: they charge the third sector for taking in their surplus food offer. We know because we have been a customer of theirs and because we have conducted a survey of other groups recieivng that service. Subsequently we know over 50% of food offered by Farshare is thrown away by the groups themselves. In our case, and we are food production organisation with 5 qualified chefs on staff – we threw away 57% of everything offered – the study was over a 6 month period. This means Fareshare are being paid by the third sector to externalise the waste costs of of the private sector. And I would add the food quality is poor – so its back to that poor food offer being right for poor people approach…

    Then there is the joint initiative between Fareshare and Trussell Trust – collecting from donated food supermarkets from supermarkets behind the strapline ‘every can counts’. Again we know that up to 50% of all food offered as food parcels by food banks remains unused or is thrown away. This is because the food parcel system favoured by Fareshare and Trussell drawing together random donations that do not go together as meals, yet they continue collect on this basis. Ironically this means that Fareshare for example, is now a purveyor of food waste in its own right – claiming to stop food waste via its collections from the private sector supply chain but negating this by generating food waste via its collections from supermarket trolleys. Both Fareshare and Trussell are aware of their own food waste service but are in complete denial – so let me explain why we think this is in a final few bullet points

    – Trussell and Fareshare are locked into a growth plan wanting to be big national charities.
    – Trussell have no interest in the quality of the food they collect or distribute – for them its about using the emotive aspect of hunger to expand their organisational footprint – we can qualify this from our interactions with them…
    – Fareshare used to talk of not being a food poverty service now their growth plan is almost solely predicated on servicing the food poverty system – again to facilitate growth. And here is the crux;
    – Both claim to be providing services that feed people well – this is a complete fallacy.

    You finish your article by raising the free pass to government issue…well unfortunately when organisations like Fareshare choose growth over quality and service over care they should only be judged as giving the Government that ‘free pass’.

    The services I mention above have been constant for many years now and the food quality to the end user has not improved – yes the supply has grown but there is no evidence (and lots to the contrary) that the food quality has grown alongside. We have for years written about the need to move the narrative on from the romance/ emotion of using surplus food onto what is actually happening so that the focus is on the supply of good useful food and not the over-supply of poor quality food that doesn’t nothing other than externalise costs for the private sector and mean that hungry people get a poor food offer at the point of their hunger. This is not right and I do wonder why years later into the surplus food story, the romance of how surplus food can save this and that is still the dominant story academics and others seem interested in – its time to move on and start telling some home truths about the ‘surplus-food-food-poverty-industry’.

    • Dear Robbie
      It is nice to hear from you. I remember you from the event I held in early October. It was a shame you were not able to stay for the workshop part of the day where we all had an opportunity to discuss the opportunities and difficulties associated with delivering food related services to vulnerable people. There was much that was both positive and difficult expressed on the day by those 40 or so people who remained. I believe that identifying the problems and then working with communities to find ways to overcome those problems is important. Collaborative working with organisations that have the shared goal of supporting people is something that matters and we all have strengths that can be utilized. We have been in a climate for many years that has looked to the market to solve our problems, which is clearly not working for many who are on the margins. Given the political and economic strength of those forces that work against these people, the ability to collaborate is a key tool in our toolbox.

      Likewise, complacency with what we are doing is also not something we should aspire to and identifying better ways of working is absolutely important. Your initiatives to improve the nutritional quality of food that is given to those who are in need are very helpful. The critique around nutritional quality of food provided by some emergency food parcels is one I have also made. Resting on the notion that emergency food is only supposed to be temporary is not a sufficient reason not to try to see how better quality food can be circulated to people in need. The prepared meals and a wrap around package of groceries, which I note also contains baked beans alongside fresh eggs and other food is likely to be an improvement for many, particularly those families for whom cooking is a struggle.

      Feeding people is a complex problem as I am sure you are aware. In the interest of free debate and open discussion I would like to ask some questions as some of your points do not align with what I have learned in my own research.

      1. You say that surplus food is often more a hindrance than a help. I am assuming this is linked to your statement about throwing food away. You support this argument from your own experience providing cooked food and some research you have done. Would you be willing to share that research? How many organizations did you work with? What do these organisations do with the food?—are they cooking meals for delivery as you do, are they cafes, are they running a food pantry/shop for those who are in emergency need or who may not be in need but on low incomes? Are they running cooking classes? It may be that different models of delivery are able to incorporate surplus food into their way of feeding better than other models. For example, some food is fine to redistribute as it is, but is not suitable to use for cooking with. As such a pantry can use this food, but an organization the cooks or does cooking lessons would not be able so much. To be clear, we do not have a good, clear picture on this. Sometimes food is fine, but not suitable for the people who receive it as it is unusual to them–e.g.,quinoa. More systematic research on how different models of delivery are able to use this food is needed as well as how people incorporate this surplus into their lives. Does it get eaten or thrown away? I am proposing research on this with partners in Manchester and Newcastle to try and work some of this out. If you have research we would love to see it.

      2. You say we should be cautious of motives of services that use meals to get people in the door, but offer no further explanation with regard to this. Perhaps you can explain. I was referring to organisations whose first purpose is providing health screening, mental health and drug support or who are a community centre offering classes or are a community organization providing employment support. They are self-identifying as having a primary purpose that is not food related, but they also offer a café where a low-cost or donation meal is offered. I would be very interested to know why you think this is something to be suspicious of.

      3. You argue that using surplus food is propping up poverty. I would/and have argued, including in this very post, that at the root it is our economic and political system that is creating the current context of food insecurity. There is an additional argument that when organizations are willing to step in and feed people this gives a free pass to industry and government to keep behaving in the ways that they currently do. There is no pressure, for example to challenge central government policy that abandons those who are insecure because of this economic system or to limit profits or to improve working conditions or to more fairly tax the wealthy or to develop a tax system that is not regressive, or institute planning regulations that impinge on people’s access to good food and, and, and. The list is long. We can demand that our local authorities include implications for social justice in every policy they introduce. We can demand that planning applications, for example also have a meaningful social justice impact statement and then levy sanctions on those developers when if they fail to deliver on that aspect of their plan. Yes it will increase paperwork and yes it will make it harder to build developments, but perhaps then we will have the affordable housing that we need, which will in turn enable the working poor to have more money for food. Food aid also can be argued to allow corporations to feel good while they are underpaying their staff, exploiting zero hours contracts, and locating more expensive small shops with poor choice and more expensive labels in poor areas compared to what they provide in their larger stores. Food aid organisation’s may feel reluctant to challenge these organisations because they become dependent on the relationships they have with for profit organizations to keep going. The result is that these economically powerful organisations are then able to carry on making enormous profits off the backs of those who are poor and demanding government give them tax breaks that are unavailable to the rest of us. Finding ways to use shorter supply chains may be one way to support a different food system. Holding these organizations to account may be another thing we can do collectively. Supporting communities to become political may be another approach. I’ve not got an answer. We have never had a fair or just food system, so I just keep trying. I am curious, where and how do you source the food that you use in your business? How do you resolve and square this issue?

      4. There is also an argument from Canada that relying on donations is also equally dampening on political mobilization. I see that your Share Your Lunch programme is based on donations. Are you finding similar links? It seems to me that the more people are becoming aware of the need to support people who are hungry also gives space to raise and seek change to the conditions that cause hunger (and also food waste). It makes it visible and if it is visible people start talking about it. Not knowing about an issue also dampens political will.

      5. Related to the points above. There is also the argument that providing food aid to people is giving a fish, but not teaching how to fish so people can provide for themselves. While these development approaches can and have been criticized for being patronizing and for trying to normalize groups into becoming middle-class or western depending on the context, there are more participatory methods that are available the help to support transformative resilience in communities that are based on and build from existing capacity within those communities. My project in Doncaster has been trying to work on these issues. This less radical approach, acknowledges that people are hungry now and there is food available now and if we offer a mix of support that includes support for people to cope (e.g. meals and bags of food) with also support that enables communities to adapt and transform perhaps they will be in a position to move forward. I also recognize that to do things well specialism can be important, so to expect all groups to do all of this is not the way forward, which is why collaboration is important. Local authorities can help with this, but it needs to be a priority for them, which it currently is not.

      6. With regard to your point about food quality and it being poor. This links to point 1 and my earlier comment about the quality of food in emergency food parcels. Let me elaborate and contextualize a bit as I feel that some of the facts are missing.

      a. Trussell Trust are the largest umbrella organization, but do not account for all or even the majority of the emergency food supply organisations in the UK. There are a bit over 400 organisations affiliated with the TT, who buy the TT service and in doing so must offer a specific list of food items as determined by the TT. Much of this is donated food with some that is purchased directly from suppliers or supermarkets with the help of grant income of financial donations. There are easily 3x this number of non-TT emergency food providers. We have relatively little systematic knowledge about these other organisations because most research has focused on the TT as access to their organisations is more do-able. I would argue we need more research on non-tt food suppliers to round out the picture. I have no doubt that there are those who are not providing a fantastic service, but because they are all that is available they continue to work. There are also organisations that I am aware of and who I have worked with who offer a fantastic service to their communities and who offer better food to those in their communities. We do not know the ratio of those offering the minimum and those who go the extra mile. We do know, however that people are being fed. To condemn them, rather than work with them is only self serving. I urge you to consider carefully your own motives and the reasons why you offer your own criticism. It comes across not as supportive of a collective effort to support but rather a form of self promotion.

      b. Some of these are using surplus food to do this and quite effectively. And they are happy with the quality and variety of food that they receive. Indeed when I have visited both organisations who receive this food and the warehouses (including through impromptu, unplanned visits that are not staged) I have found the quality of the food has been high. Which is not to say that there are not issues with using and accessing surplus food. The organization using this food has to have storage that is suitable and must understand food safety and hygiene. For some organisations this may render using surplus food an impossibly. Let me also suggest that the idea of good food itself is a boundary object, whereby different people interpret it in different ways. This gives scope for finding connections, but it can also lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding. For example, some view good food as being high in nutrients while other might view good food as the food that their children will eat and that brings pleasure. For some, good food is food that they don’t have to cook, because they don’t like cooking. But for many, good food is food that they can cook themselves. Cooking, for a lot of people, is a way to demonstrate care and thrift for their families and can be a marker of achievement. In a living context where such markers are few it is important not to take that away. Your model may be good for some, but it doesn’t meet the needs of everyone. Good food is complex and we need to figure out how to use it effectively without dismissing the understanding and needs of others. Much more work needs to be done on and around this. Supporting the many for me also means enabling the non-nutritional aspects of food quality to be enabled. A focus just on nutrition can result in the imposition of the values of the few and becomes just for the few. Perhaps you have a different view? It seems you value the meal as the best mode of delivery. I am not convinced it works for everyone and I do know, based on systematic evidence, that many organisations use some of the food and top up with purchased food and donations (as highlighted in the post). I would suggest that surplus food redistributors like FareShare, PlanZheros, and others are not demanding or even mandating that their users only use surplus food in their organisations. It might also be helpful to think of surplus food in the same light as seasonal and local food. The supply of these foods is intermittent and inconsistent because of a whole host of external factors. This is one of the reasons why we have a supermarketised and industrialised food system. It helps even-out variability in supply of food. It also brings a lot of rubbish (literal and metaphorical) with it as well as surplus.

      7. Your discuss FareShare explicitly in your response. I think there are some mis-representations here. FareShare do charge for the services that the regional depots supply. Some argue that this is free food that they get from suppliers so it should be free. While the food item is free, redistributing it is not cost free. The depots still need to manage and organize, monitor and store the food. This requires electricity, machinery and buildings. These are not free to buy nor are the free to run. While volunteers are used, volunteers need to be organized and also there is the issue of should we not pay people for the work that they do? So there are also wages that go behind that work of getting the food from suppliers to community organisations. FareShare, in addition to the paid for service that you mention also supports thousands of community organisations through the FareShare FoodCloud collaboration. This is a free service. It includes training on food safety and storage. It isn’t a perfect system, but I do know that it is being reviewed and worked on to make it work better for everyone. If we waited to find the perfect system, we would never do anything. Fortunately there are many who are committed to making the system work and are providing feedback to FareShare to help them improve. From my observation this is taken seriously and solutions are looked into. I understand this is perhaps not your perspective, but perhaps we can talk about this? Perhaps it is linked to the issues I raised in point 1? Fareshare are aiming to support vulnerable communities, which does not only mean those who are in need of emergency food. I would like to know what evidence you are basing your assertion on, because the evidence that I have seen says otherwise. I would also argue that to claim that they do not effectively support organisations that are feeding people well is not a fallacy and I have evidence to support this.

      8. There is a debate to be had about size of organisations. There is much that can be done within a collective. Size also matters in terms of influence and power. Much change can occur in the non-public sphere as a result of these large scale organisations being listened to. There are also benefits of being small. I think there is room for both and it seems to me that there are different models to how collaboration between the two can happen. From what I have seen in my research with FareShareUK their collaboration mechanism works better than that of some of the other larger charity organisations. Part of this is because they are relflexive and open. It may be that this has not translated into your experience, but perhaps we can talk about this in a meeting rather than here. I feel that trashing organisations that have a shared goal is counter-productive. It weakens the whole sector, for example in the way that all the labour in-fighting weakend its political power after the Brexit vote.

      You close saying you have written for years that surplus food should not be used in the support of feeding vulnerable people. I hope that this response has explained why I am not willing to abandon it. To be clear, though, I would not ever suggest that surplus food should be the ONLY food we use to support vulnerable people, nor would I advocate that only poor people should incorporate surplus into their lives. It is food for us all to eat and I have also said this elsewhere. I also do not think that food aid alone will address the issues of hunger in our country and indeed throughout the world. But as part of a package it is important, just as interventions that support coping are important. There is much more that I could say in response to your comment, but as this reply is now considerably longer than the initial draft I will stop. I thank you sincerely for your comments and do hope that we can have the opportunity to collaborate in ways that seek both the improvement in the food support sector as well as the wider social system we are looking for.


      • Megan

        Thanks for your reply and it’s thorough content.
        Let’s not keep exchanging chapter and verse about this or that because whilst it’s interesting – I don’t think it serves anyone but us. We have both been able to express our thoughts and feelings.

        For the record: I chose to name Faresahre and Trussell because we have for years tried to engage them in a meaningful dialogue about change and improvement and they have at no time shown willing – again we can prove this. So when we see the same failed model still being rolled out after 8 years of poor food delivery it’s time to represent people who are being fed food that not you or I or anybody in Fareshare or Trussell would ever eat – so why after 8 years when the options are simple to activate are they still pushing the same model? And I certainly have not misrepresented our experience and research into Fareshare.

        Maybe sometime soon we can meet to discuss for quality and food and all the other points you raise, some valid and some way off the mark – for the record we have taught 15,000 people to cook – been producing our own food ranges for 2 years and cater in schools nurseries and care homes and have given away 20,000 free fresh meals – so we know a thing or two about food and food standards – unlike most in the food poverty game who know nothing about food – no other industry and that is what it has become an industry, would be allowed to run if those in charge knew nothing about their product – again you may disagree?

        Good luck with your research

      • I would very much like to see the data you reference. I suspect there are certain affordances of surplus food that are better than others. it may prove more difficult to cook batch meals and offer cooking lessons using surplus compared to running a cafe or community shop. I can certainly provide systematic evidence to the contrary of what you are arguing. Like you say, more could be said. Perhaps we shall have to agree to disagree, where we disagree.

  7. Hi Megan

    Thank you for clearly defining surplus food, as opposed to food waste, a distinction often missed. Great to hear an expansion of why it is helpful for charities to use surplus food. I do not disagree.

    However, I have found the conflation of surplus food and food poverty has had a detrimental effect on everyone taking responsibility for their food waste. I work for Transition Bro Gwaun in Fishguard and we operate a surplus food cafe, open to all, which makes use of food waste from local retailers and allotment gluts etc.

    We have found that some people do not use the cafe because they think the cafe is for ‘poor people’. The stigma of food poverty keeps people away because they don’t want to be considered ‘poor’ or conversely, ‘to take from the poor’.

    If you’d like to read more about our project see the website: http://transitionbrogwaun.org.uk/make-a-meal-of-it/

    Best wishes


    • Yes, there is an issue about making this food, food for everyone. It’s an interesting boundary issue. I agree, this is food we should all be eating. Thanks for commenting. And I’ll have a look at your project. I’m exploring these issues in my research just now–when surplus works and when it doesn’t, how it becomes edible and when it doesn’t. Social distinctions like those you discuss make food edible or not.

Comments are closed.