Glass half full: Share in the community

In our latest round-up of cheery news, Nick Hughes takes a look at several initiatives that are making an impact when it comes to reducing food waste.

It’s Christmas time and for many of us that heralds the opportunity to (over)indulge in festive treats and tipples. But for those less fortunate, the high jinks of others contrasts starkly with the hardship they face on a daily basis, exacerbated this year by one of the coldest November’s in recent memory.

Thankfully, the hospitality sector is once again stepping up to the plate this winter to support those that have fallen on hard times.

Football clubs aren’t always at the head of the queue when praise is being dished out but many take their role at the heart of the community extremely seriously. Clubs including Plymouth Argyle and Nottingham Forest have recently donated food to homeless charities following the cancellation of fixtures at short notice due to bad weather. Uneaten food from Plymouth’s postponed game against Grimsby Town was given to the George House Homeless Hostel in Stonehouse and the Salvation Army’s Devonport House. Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, donated 3,000 food parcels to a local homeless charity after their game against Reading was called off.

For organisations wanting to find a home for surplus food, either at short notice or on a regular basis, technology is connecting them with grateful recipients. Food-sharing app Olio reports it is now helping over 270 UK businesses each week repurpose unused food through its Food Waste Heroes programme. Food that would historically have gone to waste is being redistributed within the local community via the Olio app; from offices and hotels that have surplus food following meetings and events, to photographers and food stylists that have food items that can be shared following filming or photo shoots. As Tessa Clarke, co-founder of Olio notes: “Many of us are actively reducing food waste at home and we expect the places that we work in to be doing their bit too.”

The proliferation of food waste reduction initiatives in recent years not only reflects public dissatisfaction at the scandal of chucking away edible food when many people live in constant fear of hunger, but also the obvious financial rationale of getting a return on stock that will soon be past its best. Costa Coffee, for example, has recently expanded its partnership with another food waste app, Too Good To Go, from nine to 100 stores across the UK. Costa customers download the app, purchase the unsold food at a discount from a nearby store and collect at a designated pick-up time.

Beyond the obvious financial and reputational benefit, there are environmental gains to be made too. “Food waste is a massive global issue that contributes heavily to climate change, yet over two-thirds of Brits don't realise that it causes greenhouse gas emissions,” says Hayley Conick, UK MD at Too Good To Go. “By working with brands like Costa Coffee we can make a dent in the vast amount of perfectly edible food that ends up in the bin every day and make a big difference for the planet."

Holland & Barrett is another business that has cottoned on to the ‘win-win’ of selling through old stock at a discount. Starting in December, the health and wellness retailer is launching a new trial offering products past their best-before date at a reduced cost to customers as part of a goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% by 2025. The concept is being trialled in 25 stores in the Devon and Cornwall region and will see the products given a dedicated space in-store. Suitable products from all categories will be included in the trial period, apart from vitamins, chilled and frozen food, milk products, and protein shakes and powders. If the trial is successful, the retailer will look at rolling it out nationwide to over 800 stores.

There are many examples, besides those mentioned, of businesses taking steps to ensure that good food finds a good home whether with those in need or those who simply cherish a bargain.

As thoughts turns to New Year’s resolutions, those companies yet to step up to the plate on food waste might consider putting it near the top of their list for 2020.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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