Food Waste v Food Banks

Food waste across all the 28 countries of the EU is currently at  89 million tonnes a year. MEPs have been discussing a  reduction target of 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030.

Food waste is caused in the home when we buy too much for instance ‘buy one get one free’ and then don’t use it all or when we throw out ‘sell buy’ items even though they are perfectly usable. According to Greener Scotland  the foods we frequently waste are: fresh fruit and vegetables (including salad), drinks, and bakery products, like bread.

“Every year 380,000 tonnes of food and drink are thrown away which didn’t have to be – this costs the Scottish public over £1bn every year. “

“Some of the food that we put in our household bins never even makes it out of the packet. Food thrown out whole or unopened costs the average household over £128 a year.”

World wide we in the industrialized countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (222 million vs. 230 million tons) a year.

How have we got to the stage where we are throwing away so much food?

Good advice is available from Zero Waste Scotland and it is all so sensible that it is rather absurd we are at the stage where we have to be told to:

  • plan our shopping
  • buy only what we need
  • have a range of store cupboard basics which can be used with leftovers

The proposals being discussed in the EU  call on the European Commission to lift existing restrictions on food donations and stressed a solution is needed for the confusion created for many consumers by the “best before” and “use by” labelling.

Biljana Borzan (S&D, HR) said:

“In developed countries food is wasted mostly at the end of the chain, at distribution and consumption. Everyone has a responsibility to tackle this problem”

“My report calls for a coordinated policy response on labelling, liability and education, as most consumers do not understand the precise meaning of “best before” and “use by” labelling”.

“Moreover, we should address the shortcomings of existing EU legislation where it hinders food donations.  We need to update our common VAT system to allow for tax exemptions. A form of “good Samaritan” legislation at EU level could lead to greater volumes of food being donated and reducing food being wasted, without compromising current standards of food safety”.

Food waste & Food Banks

GS-PieChart-430x450v2 Food waste

Top five foods we waste by weight (Greener Scotland)

The chart shows how much food we throw out unused in Scotland every year. These are household statistics and do not include food waste from  restaurants, food outlets and supermarkets.

Every year we in Scotland throw away

  • Fresh fruit – £70 million
  • Fresh vegetables –62,000 tonnes 
  • Drink – 70 million litres 
  • Meat and fish –  £130 million
  • Bakery -2.6 million slices of bread.
  • Dairy – £93 million

So many of us (most of us) waste huge amounts of perfectly good food. And yet for many people in our communities, people who are our friends, family and neighbours they are having to rely increasingly on Food Banks.

According to the Trussell Trust 

“Between April and September 2016, Trussell Trust foodbanks across the UK distributed 519,342 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis compared to 506,369 during the same period last year. 188,584 of these went to children.”

Issues with benefit payments e.g. late, delayed or removed , accounted for 44% of the referrals. The figures were so shocking that the Trussell Trust proposed a direct telephone line between foodbanks and local job centres.


Primary Causes for Referral to Food Banks (Trussell Trust)

What kind of society do we live in where people throw away food unused and others have such a low income that they are having to rely on charitable donations to feed themselves and their family?

What kind of welfare system do we now have when it is no longer providing the support people need for the basics in maintaining their health and wellbeing?

The highest rise in Food Bank use is in Scotland. The Scottish Government has a Fair Food Fund (established in 2016) of £1 million from which it distributes money to organisations tackling food poverty. The money  helps foodbanks and community groups to provide people with nutritious food, teach them how to cook fresh meals, strengthen local partnership approaches and reduce reliance on emergency food provision.

Angela Constance, Communities Secretary for the Scottish Government said:

“We have been clear that UK Government welfare cuts and benefit sanctions have continually pushed more and more people into food poverty and increased the demand and number of food banks in Scotland. This shocking trend has to stop, and we will continue to fight those changes. Relying on foodbanks is unacceptable and it’s something we want to eradicate. No-one should need face those conditions in a modern country.”

“Our ambition is to help community initiatives to support people in a dignified way and try to address the underlying causes of food poverty”

The UK welfare system is not fit for purpose. When people are having to go to a Food Bank to obtain 3 days of emergency food rations then something is not just a wee bit wrong with the system – it is completely wrong. And it is to get worse. The recently introduced two child benefit cap will push more and more families into poverty. The UK welfare system we now have in this country is intended to demean and degrade people when they are most in need of our support. Vehicles are being taken away from those with mobility problems thus removing their ability to be independent.

Food Banks and Food Waste what a crazy society we are living in. The divisions being created in Scotland today are not ones of religion or over an independence referendum. The divisions in Scotland today are between those who have the luxury of throwing away good food and those who have to obtain a food voucher before they can eat.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame 


2 replies »

  1. “plan our shopping
    buy only what we need
    have a range of store cupboard basics which can be used with leftovers”

    Amen to that. It really is that straight-forward.
    Thinking about our food – a bit of thought when it comes to our consumption, of everything.

  2. Agree with Bernie’s comment above but in addition, when you are so poor you cannot find the money for your electricity meter to cook, nor repair the ‘fridge, nor afford a freezer (YES, these people DO exist), the whole food waste issue takes on a new angle.

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