We brought together a tasty mix of ingredients for the launch of our Food Hub at the House of Commons. The spice was provided by campaigner Tristram Stuart, the zest by Social Entrepreneur Jenny Dawson, founder of the wonderful Rubies in the Rubble. The core ingredients were courtesy of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Birds Eye. Essential seasoning was offered by Kerry McCarthy; one of the most vocal and effective MPs on food waste. Together they highlighted six steps for the perfect recipe to cut food waste.         

Step 1 - Honest and accurate data is essential

Tristram kicked off with two clear messages to retailers and manufacturers. The first was don’t cherry-pick data so that it looks like all the blame rests with households – he was particularly scathing of the British Retail Consortium’s claim that only 1.3% of food waste comes from the grocer retail sector.

The second was that accurate and independently verified food waste data makes it possible for social enterprises to offer solutions that are financially viable and have a significant impact on waste. Tesco’s leadership in this area was highlighted.

Step 2 - Let’s mix it up

No one sector has the credibility, resources or ability to cut food waste on its own, so collaboration is essential. This Christmas, Sainsbury’s over-ordered on turkeys and because of their excellent relationship with the charity FareShare decided to donate 6,000 fresh and 4,000 frozen birds, helping to give vulnerable families a better Christmas and cutting waste. Relationships such as this between retailers and charities are essential but currently patchy.

Step 3 - Be creative

Some of the solutions to food waste are counter intuitive. Independent research from Sheffield Hallam University commissioned by Birds Eye highlighted the significant benefits that could be delivered by households freezing food that would otherwise be wasted. It is also easier for households to control portions of frozen food such as peas – helping to cut household food waste.

Birds Eye highlighted the need to take a wider view of food waste to persuade more people to take it seriously. Birds Eye increasingly talks about the need to cut waste to safeguard food security. They, and other companies, also understand the importance of giving young people the skills to use ingredients that would have been wasted.

Step 4 - All is not what it seems

Retailers were challenged on why initiatives to sell ‘ugly’ or ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables seem patchy. Their response was that it is often easier to use these products higher up the supply chain with the farmers and manufacturers – something that is not seen by consumers. They also highlighted that food gluts caused by exceptional harvests are harder to deal with and are a larger cause of food waste.

Step 5 - Make the rules clearer

Food is not a priority for political parties and vocal advocates such as Kerry McCarthy MP are few and far between. It is clear that better legislation could make a huge difference. Legal restrictions making it difficult for supermarkets to collaborate to fight the national disgrace of food poverty should be removed. Clarity over labelling such as ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ would remove consumer confusion. Pressure could also be placed on retailers and manufacturers to get consistency on collecting and releasing food waste data.

Step 6 - Join us at the table

The launch of the Food Hub highlighted the need to build greater collaboration and find increasingly creative solutions to cut food waste. This is the role that Hubbub would like to take in the coming years.

If you want to join us please get in touch at [email protected]