The UK Government has been accused of being “absent” during a “hunger crisis” as campaigners called for more funding to get surplus food to those in need.
In an open letter to Rishi Sunak led by Fareshare and signed by over 1,000 UK charities, the prime minister was told that food redistribution organisations can’t get enough food to support the growing number of people driven to food poverty by the cost of living crisis. This is despite an unprecedented volume of donations from the food industry.
In the letter the charities stated that “the food industry continues to give charities record amounts of food, going above and beyond to provide food and support the millions of people facing hunger. The public, many of whom are facing economic hardship, have been incredibly generous with donations, and given their time through volunteering. Everyone else has stepped up, and we are calling on the government to do the same.”
Nearly 14 million people are now food insecure, a figure that has more than doubled since 2020. At the same time, 7 billion meals-worth of edible food goes to waste every year before it even reaches the shops, according to Fareshare.
The letter continued: “Funding used to exist to help small farmers and growers to get their surplus food to charities. Yet government axed this funding, and have repeatedly said there are no plans to reinstate it.”
By committing £25m per year, Fareshare said the government could deliver 42,500 tonnes of surplus food – the equivalent of 100 million meals – to those experiencing food insecurity. The majority of this funding would make it cost-neutral for farmers and food businesses to redistribute their surplus food by paying for labour, packaging and transport.
Fareshare estimated that funding food redistribution would save the Government £140m in costs avoided through the services provided by the various charities. The funding would also prevent the waste of nearly 70,000 tonnes of CO2e – the equivalent of over 150,000 barrels of oil burned.
“We have yet to meet a politician who does not support the idea that food that is surplus should be used to strengthen our communities before it becomes waste, and we have had lots of positive responses. But what is needed is action and action now,” said Lindsay Boswell, CEO of Fareshare.
Fareshare has also published the results of a public survey showing that 88% of people believe surplus food should be donated to people and charities and 78% think the government should do more to help charities access surplus food.