Researching the Food Redistribution Model - A Masters Dissertation by Li-Jia.
With food waste education at the forefront of our charity we were more than happy to answer a few questions for Li-Jia Yap, undertaking a Masters in Sustainability & Management at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her dissertation explores the food redistribution model, with a focus on redistribution charities such as ourselves, UKHarvest, and the businesses who donate us their surplus food.
“After having spent some time volunteering with a food redistribution charity, I was inspired to choose food redistribution as my dissertation topic due to the urgency and increasing public awareness of issues related to food waste and food security.
The project aims to explore the role that redistribution plays in efforts to reduce food waste and food insecurity at a systemic level, and the extent to which participating in such schemes aligns with the sustainability objectives of donor businesses. Focusing on the relationship between donor businesses and the food redistribution organisation, it also aims to explore the strengths and weaknesses of working in this complex arrangement from each organisation's perspective.”
- Li-Jia Yap
We wish her the best of luck in her dissertation,
- What role do you see food redistribution playing in the broader picture of reducing food waste? What responsibilities do you feel that you and your partners (both charities and businesses) have in this regard?
Reducing food waste is our ultimate goal and this will be achieved through education. Food redistribution is not a solution to the problem, but rather takes advantage of surplus food to help those food insecure. Through our food redistribution platform it is important we educate throughout the entire process, from helping suppliers decrease food waste, to providing nutritional tips on healthy and low cost eating.
- If the supply of food available to be redistributed was reduced, what are some of the ways that the organisation would do things differently? What would you do if in the next five to ten years, food waste from businesses was significantly reduced?
We are working to reduce the amount of surplus food that needs to be redistributed nationally, so we hope this question becomes ‘when’ not ‘if’. Alongside our redistribution model we also run an education programme that continues to develop in subject and reach. We focus not only on food waste education, but also the fundamentals of healthy and low-cost eating. Our food redistribution helps those who are food insecure, and we will continue to help those most vulnerable through our education and resources.
- How do you manage the unpredictable nature of the supply of food? Do the charities you work with have to address challenges arising from this?
We have the space to store and provide fresh, frozen and ambient products, and aim to deliver a range of ingredients to create nutritional meals. We work closely with charities, and know how many meals they need to provide a week, distributing our resources as fairly as possible. We also work closely with charities to ensure we are not their primary or only source of food due to the unpredictable nature of our food rescue operation.
- How well do you think the food that is donated provides adequate nutrition to those who consume it? Are there any ways that this could be further improved?
We always aim to provide the ingredients to create fully nutritionally balanced meals by delivering a range of products, across fresh, ambient, and frozen. We have a professional chef and qualified nutritionist in-house, helping to us to provide the best we can. Taking inspiration from the products we deliver we create specific recipe’s and education sessions available to all.
- What are the challenges and strengths of working in this complex arrangement?
We have made strong connections so we are able to collect and redistribute food on short notice, maximising its use and avoiding waste. Our areas to store fresh and frozen produce have proven invaluable, allowing our logistics team time to ensure we redistribute food as required. The logistics of reacting to last minute food donations can be tricky, as we heavily rely on donations and volunteers.