Donating surplus food to charity will not solve the issues of food waste and hunger, a new report has claimed.
Research by the Food Research Collaboration concluded that companies giving surplus food to food banks is a “short-term band aid” that could not meet the needs of people in poverty, or solve the UK’s food waste problem.
Moreover, researchers argued that a large-scale system of food donation could actually have negative health and social consequences for the groups of citizens that it is intended to help.
Recent improvements in infrastructure and a growth in the number of businesses donating surplus food has led to significant increases in the volume of food redistributed to those in need via charities such as Fareshare and the Trussell Trust.
MPs are even considering bringing in legislation to require supermarkets to give food to charity following similar moves in France and Italy.
The report’s authors, however, argue that the available data and research on the issues of food waste, food poverty, food bank use and corporate food donations, highlight the “impracticality, morality and distraction” of redistributing surplus food and called on the government to instead address the structural, root causes of poverty.
They also claimed that giving away surplus food would not provide incentives to cut waste in the long term.
“When taking into account the available data, we argue the negatives of this kind of donation system outweigh the positives,” said Professor Martin Caraher of City University, London, who co-authored the report. “While in the short term the redistribution of food waste to emergency food aid providers may provide immediate relief, there is no evidence to show that it addresses food insecurity.”