Food & Drink

Food for thought: Firms fight back against waste trend as almost half of Manchester kids go hungry

The headline figures are startling, shocking but, sadly, not surprising. 

Manchester has the highest percentage of children living under the poverty line with almost half of its population unable to get sufficient amounts of food.

Add to that the fact that in the UK nearly FOUR millions tons of food is wasted each and every year and it is difficult to comprehend why there is such a problem.

But, away from the glare of the media, some big name firms – many of which only ever feature in the headlines for the wrong reasons – are trying to change all that.

Pret A Manger leads the pack of food providers looking to make a difference with its slick mantra ‘waste not, want not’.

All food sold within the stores do not have a sell-by date and at the end of each day all unsold sandwiches and salads are given to charities working with the homeless.

“Breaking the cycle of homelessness is more than simply putting a roof over someone’s head,” said Giovanna Pasini, Pret’s Foundation Trust Manager.

“It’s about giving people the support they need to take back their independence.”

In 2013, Pret donated over 2.7 million products to homeless charities across the UK.

In addition, it has given over £29, 000 in donations to three Mancunian charities: Barnabus, Manchester City Mission and Salford Loaves and Fishes.

And from February this year, Pret will donate 10p from every soup sold to the Pret Foundation Trust (PFT), an independent charity which works to alleviate homelessness in the UK and that raised £1.2 million last year.

“Charities come over three or four times a week and we just hand over all our leftover food,” said a Pret employee.

“It’s much better that our delicious food goes to people who really need it at the end of the day and not in the bin.”

“I think it’s a great idea and I think other UK food and drink suppliers should do the same.”

Pret is not the only organisation tackling Manchester’s poverty problem as FareShare North West redistributes food to over 90 charities and community groups within the North West.

“The sheer scale and size of the food industry that provides food to millions of people 365 days a year means there will inevitably be surpluses,” said Mark Varney, Director of Food at FareShare.

“If you acknowledge that there will inevitably be some waste and follow the principals of the food waste hierarchy then the food must be used to feed people in need.’’

A number of food retailers within Manchester, including major supermarkets Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco, donate over 200 tonnes of fresh, frozen and long-life food through Fairshare.

This is done via the EMERGE Recycling depot at New Smithfield in Openshaw which ‘matches food with the needs of our community food members and delivered’.

Matt Simister, Tesco Commercial Director of Group Food said they are ‘making changes to our processes’.

“Ending multi-buy promotions on large packs of bagged salads is one way we can help, but this is just the start and we’ll be reviewing what else we can do,” he said.

Richard Swannell, Director of WRAP, applauded the work that Tesco has done to reduce the amount of waste it produces.

“We welcome Tesco’s approach to tackling food waste across their whole supply chain, and by identifying these hot spots, they can tackle these areas effectively,” he said.

Other supermarkets, including Aldi, have also created a surplus waste system.

“At Aldi we work hard to eliminate food waste at our stores,” said an Aldi spokesperson.

“In 2012, donation of non-perishable food waste to charitable organisations became standard practice in the UK.”

A Marks & Spencer spokesman also detailed changes the store has implemented with regards to their wastage.

“We aim to reduce food waste by selling short-life products at a discount to our customers and employees, donating safe amounts to charities and recycling what’s left.”

If you would like to find out more about volunteering with FareShare, contact Liz Launder on 0161 223 8200.

Image courtesy of Nick Saltmarsh, via Flickr, with thanks.

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