The Food Ethics Council’s survey of food & farming charities gives food businesses insight into what makes them tick, what holds them back and how the two sectors could work together. Here, the Food Ethics Council highlights five key takeaways from the Food issues census 2017.
- Local food is the number one issue that UK food and farming charities are working on, from supporting urban growing projects to developing local food supply networks. This reflects a sustained interest in and demand for local food by the general public, and represents an opportunity for foodservice businesses to develop resilient local and regional supply chains.
- Food poverty is also high on the agenda. There has been a huge increase in civil society activity on food poverty in the last five years. This has driven an associated increase in food businesses (including the big retailers) redistributing their surplus food*. Foodservice has been slower on the uptake than many other parts of the industry in linking with charities to redistribute their own surplus, but the census shows that there are plenty of opportunities to link up with charities, both at a local and national level.
- Grant funding from the public and third sectors is getting harder to come by, and more charities are looking for new ways to finance their work. As a result, private sector funding has significantly increased since 2011 to 25% of total food and farming funding. This opens the way for innovative corporate partnerships with charities.
- But the food industry must also expect challenges from the charitable sector. Behind the UK government (named by 41% of survey respondents), the food industry and its component parts was held up by many respondents as the second most cited group in hindering progress towards sustainable food & farming. Although foodservice wasn’t picked out so strongly as the major supermarkets, this is probably because many of the big catering companies fall below the radar – for now at least.
- Tens of thousands of committed and passionate volunteers are the lifeblood of food & farming charities. With funding getting ever tighter, reliance on volunteers becomes even more crucial. Encouraging staff to volunteer with their local food or farming charity is a win-win for the industry, forging community links and supporting staff wellbeing.
*Whilst the Food Ethics Council recognises that short-term redistribution of food can help people in immediate need, we firmly believe that the key focus should be on tackling the drivers of poverty and on avoiding food waste in the first place.
The Food issues census 2017 was conducted by the Food Ethics Council on behalf of charitable funders Big Lottery Fund, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, JMG Foundation and The A Team Foundation, with support from the Environmental Funders Network and Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. The report is available online at www.foodissuescensus.org, together with a tool that enables people to explore the census data in more detail.