The UK's biggest independent social redistributors team up in a new movement against food surplus, waste and food poverty
On January 29th, representatives from the UK's biggest independent food surplus redistribution organisations announced the formation of Xcess: The Independent Food Redistribution Network, established to develop national strategies to confront the nation's food surplus and marshal it for social and environmental purposes.
Xcess will work with the food industry and other agencies to tackle food surplus, its wastage and poverty in the UK's most deprived communities. Through collaboration of skills, expertise and good practice, the network will focus on unlocking untapped surplus rather than competing for what is already redistributed, and aim to stop food surplus becoming a permanent problem in the UK's food system. It will work to utilise this edible resource to ensure that nutritious food can be accessed by everyone, creating more resilient communities by supporting people's health and general wellbeing.
In doing so, Xcess will help to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 which calls on all nations to halve food waste and reduce food loss by 2030 as well delivering vital support for communities in need nationwide.
Members include CEOs and stakeholders from across the redistribution sector: Neil Reid (Blackpool Food Bank), Mark Game (The Bread and Butter Thing), Laura Winningham (City Harvest), David France (Eggcup), Mary McGrath (FoodCycle), Rene Meijer (Food Works), Richard Humphrey (His Church), Corin Bell (Open Kitchen MCR), Astra Towning (Rethink Food), Yvonne Thomson (UK Harvest), Megan Blake (University of Sheffield) and Julian Parfitt (The Anthesis Group).
Xcess members vary dramatically in size, scale and operational model but its collective impact is significant and UK-wide. Amongst its members:
- Blackpool Food Bank is a network of 70 local partners transforming lives locally.
- The Bread and Butter Thing runs a weekly affordable food service for over 12,000 members across the North of England.
- City Harvest receives and collects food from all over the UK and delivers to 340 community projects and charity groups across London supporting organisations from soup kitchens to women's refuges.
- Eggcup's affordable food service supports members on low incomes across the Lancaster district.
- FoodCycle works to reduce food poverty and loneliness by turning surplus food into nutritious community meals, all over the country.
- Food Works repurposes surplus food into meals and grocery boxes to make sustainable food accessible to all in Sheffield.
- HIS Church is an emergency goods redistribution charity, focused on providing food and supplies to those who need it most. It is currently distributing 200,000 meals a week across a network of 15,000 charities.
- Open Kitchen MCR is Manchester’s leading conscious caterer, and uses its profits to create nutritious healthy meals for individuals and families in crisis, currently delivering over 1,300 meals a week.
- Rethink Food works with schools, businesses and communities to educate and empower people to live food secure lives.
- UK Harvest delivers education programmes alongside its food redistribution operations across the south coast of England and London.
Together, they are united in the common purpose of intercepting edible surplus to create meaningful and lasting social change.
Kicking off its programme of action includes:
- Working with the IGD, WRAP and DEFRA to identify untapped sources of surplus food, unpick the barriers to its redistribution and unlock it for usage and consumption.
- Establishing a formal code of conduct for all social food redistribution agencies to ensure continued high standards across all organisations working in the area.
Based on WRAPs major 2016 research, and progress made since that was published, it is estimated that there is the potential to increase redistribution from retail and manufacture by around 190,000 tonnes compared to 2018, approximately 80,000 tonnes from retail and 110,000 tonnes from manufacturing. For the latter, this includes both finished product and more challenging material such as work in progress. This does not include potential edible surplus from both HaFS and primary production. (See breakdown of figures in Notes to Editors).
Estelle Herszenhorn, Special Advisor Food and Drink at WRAP, said “The range of different redistribution organisations operating across the UK is an essential element in preventing good quality surplus food from going to waste. We welcome the formation of Xcess: The Independent Food Redistribution Network as a practical network to share insights and best practice. This will help increase the valuable work these organisations do in helping more people, and preventing more food from going to waste.”
Speaking on behalf of Xcess:
The Bread and Butter Thing, CEO, Mark Game explained: "It's time for us to harness our collective might and align the food surplus redistribution sector to unlock the maximum amount of food surplus available for social redistribution. As a group, we are experts in developing innovative food redistribution models and we are united in our social and environmental aspirations. Together we need to seek cost-effective, meaningful and sustainable solutions which will have lasting impact on the communities we each serve."
City Harvest, CEO, Laura Winningham explained, “Our commitment to rescuing quality surplus food to help people and planet is greater than ever. In these challenging times, more and more people are unable to nourish themselves and their families. As well as the challenges presented by the pandemic, climate change marches on, with food waste a major contributor. This deeply experienced group of organisations is coming together to ensure that all businesses can safely and reliably redistribute all surplus food.”
Mary McGrath, CEO FoodCycle added: "Across the UK we waste almost 10 million tonnes of food each year but by working together we can use our common goals of environmental and social change to transform our impact on the UK's culture of food surplus. During the last three years we have already seen a 180% increase in food surplus redistribution through charities alone but the latest figures suggest another 200,000 tonnes could be added to that."
Rene Meijer, Food Works summed up: "We've invited our colleagues and counterparts to get round the table and cook up a revolution. By collaborating we hope to develop new standards for the industry, explore best working practises and connect with food producers and sellers to ensure that every family has access to healthy, nutritious food."
Richard Humphrey, Operations Director His Church concluded: “There has never been a more important time for our sector to collaborate in order to ensure more surplus food is redistributed to help vulnerable people. In the UK, we throw away the equivalent of over 20 billion meals in food surplus each year, at a time when the current crisis is having an unprecedented effect on food poverty. It’s absolutely critical that we work together to find secure, ethical, sustainable solutions to redistribute more of this precious resource to where it’s most needed.”
Find out more at xcess.org.uk or follow the network on Twitter @XcessNetwork
"These are extraordinary times and we must act now to protect our planet and minimise food waste, as it is a major contributor to climate change. We must also provide the education tools to enable those most in need to nourish their minds, bodies and soul.
The breadth of experience and reach of the organisations on this network will ensure that we rescue as much good food as possible across the UK and create the greatest impact by redistributing this to those who need it most."