Research conducted by WRAP via six trial projects for the Food Connection Programme report, saw 5.5 tonnes of unwanted food diverted from the waste stream and sent to charities and food banks.
The report, which was published last week, looked at the level and types of surplus food arising at the back of supermarkets and its suitability for redistribution to charity.
An average of around 25kg of food was collected on each store visit for redistribution during the validation exercise and 35kg during the trial process, representing a 40% uplift made possible by third sector collaboration.
The report found that while tonnages of surplus food available at store level were small in comparison to the whole supply chain, the volumes were sufficient to deliver real benefits to those who need it via charities and food banks.
The second part of the project saw food waste charities FareShare and FoodCycle run a trial in the south west of England to build data and test processes that could lead to more surplus food being redistributed from back of store.
The collaboration resulted in an agreement between retailers and charities, which helps secure safe and appropriate redistribution in accordance with food safety legislation.
The report also warns current barriers to rolling out redistribution from stores are still significant because of current capacity and resource limitations within the retail and third sectors.
Conclusions drawn from the trials were shared with the Industry Working Group to further inform the discussions taking place on redistribution throughout the whole supply chain. The group has produced guiding principles to provide information for retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, charities.
“Both the Industry Working Group and the trials were intended to build on the current good practice and better understand the challenges, and possible solutions, to make redistribution a more viable option for all involved,” said Andy Dawe, head of food & drink at WRAP.
“By drawing on the experiences and expertise of both the voluntary and business sectors, we now have a better understanding of the surpluses available at store level and are closer to overcoming some of the barriers to redistribution.
“The working group has laid the foundations which the whole sector can build upon. In order to realise many food waste prevention opportunities we now need to see more collaboration within the industry, and with charities, to expand on this good work and make more of this valuable food available to those that need it,” he added.
“We want to ensure our surplus food goes to helping feed people in need,” said Greg Sage, community director at Tesco.
“We are already working in partnership with FareShare on our Neighbourhood Food Collections and donations of surplus fresh food from our distribution centres and online grocery stores.
“We would like to extend this work in the coming year and we are working closely with FareShare and FoodCycle to achieve that.”