by Paul Braithwaite.
I am particularly pleased about the WRAP story where six trial projects saw 5.5tonnes of unwanted food diverted from the waste stream and sent to charities and food banks.
My immediate question was: Why has it taken so long to do this?
Yes, I understand. Shops shouldn’t sell food which is past its sell-by date. But why throw it away?
Some years ago when I was a journalist on a trade newspaper called Supermarketing I wrote about a scheme where one Marks & Spencer store had a deal with a local charity to donate past-its-sell-by-date-food to a homeless shelter nearby. It was used by the shelter to augment the evening meal which was given to the homeless.
Great idea but I imagine this deal was overtaken by the health and safety zealots who, it seems to me (and many others), have put a stop to people using their common sense.
I cannot believe a packet of beef mince which was OK to sell on, say, Wednesday, was not edible on the next day or the next.
I can see no reason why that food cannot be collected by someone from a local homeless charity or food bank (where it can be used quickly and safely) to feed the poor and homeless.
The report found that while tonnages of surplus food available at store level were small when compared with the whole supply chain, the volumes were sufficient to deliver real benefits to those who need it via charities and food banks.
Nick, the vic, who founded and runs a local food bank from his church in Penge, south east London, would bite the arm off of any local food store manager who offered him good, wholesome food, especially if the alternative was sending it to landfill.
I found the local food bank after seeing a notice in the local Co-op Funeral Service shop which was taking in donations for the food bank.
I now donate money and food for the bank.
Being an ex-journalist and still very nosy I gently questioned Nick (who used to be a scientist) about his food bank.
There are two elements to the food bank.
Every Friday he hosts a lunchtime meal for those who need it. He wishes he could extend this service to other days but cannot afford to – yet!
During this lunch he and his helpers also give out a food parcel – tins, rice, tea bags etc to the needy and, judging from the up to 200 people who turn up for the lunch, there are many in need.
It is not just a case of giving a food parcel to anyone who needs it, said Nick. Those who came are questioned about their circumstances to try to make sure that they are not just trying it on.
It was fairly obvious, though, he added.
And it was not just the unemployed, he insisted.
Many had jobs but could not survive on their wages. Others had used the money to feed their children but could not afford to feed themselves.
One woman who came for the meal was on a zero hours contract with the NHS but she had had no work for three months.
And, of course, there were about a dozen rough sleepers for whom this was the only formal meal of the week.
But Nick’s food bank had spin-offs which he had not anticipated. After the free once-a-week meal had been going for several weeks, the incidence of shoplifting in the local supermarkets and food shops began to drop off.
The police and local supermarkets began to help the food bank. And now there is a social worker who works at the food bank to help the needy fill in their benefit forms.
Now I understand the managers of the largest supermarkets are governed from head offices but, surely, there must be some leeway for them to work independently with local charities and food banks instead of dumping food to landfill.
The WRAP trial projects proved the charity giving works, at least at a local level and isn’t that where all charities, big and small, have a local base, at the heart of the community?