Tackling food waste continues to be a top priority for the food industry and local governments, and two new initiatives in the UK and Canada present important opportunities to reduce environmental impacts while improving public health.
As part of its continued efforts to fight food waste under its No Time for Waste campaign, Tesco has launched an innovative ‘food waste hotline’ to make it easier for suppliers and growers to pinpoint and find solutions for ongoing food waste hotspots.
The hotline is available to all Tesco suppliers via the retailer’s online Supplier Network, a resource used by over 5,000 Tesco partners regularly. It will serve as a new link between the Tesco Product teams and its network of suppliers and will enable businesses to alert Tesco to potential supply chain food waste and work together to take action.
Food waste presents a significant problem for the UK, where approximately 1.9 million tons of food is wasted by retailers and food manufacturers every year. Tesco has committed to eliminate surplus food waste in its UK operations by the end of 2017, with the ultimate goal of halving food waste in the UK — in partnership with other major retailers — as a whole by 2025.
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Last summer, warmer-than-average temperatures resulted in Tesco’s strawberry crop all ripening at the same time. To avoid wastage, Tesco put the strawberries to market in large boxes at market leading prices — a good deal for customers and crucial for reducing losses and food waste on farms.
The new hotline will provide another way for similar efforts to continue, while enabling Tesco to work directly with suppliers to identify emerging as well as long-term food waste issues. “At Tesco, we have no time for waste and we are committed to reducing food waste wherever it occurs, from farm to fork,” said Matt Simister, commercial director, Fresh Food and Commodities at Tesco.
“The food waste hotline is another little help we are making to achieve this with our suppliers. It helps our suppliers gain direct, easy access to our Product teams and this will enable us to identify food waste hotspots and systemic issues and work in partnership to tackle them.”
Meanwhile, a supermarket donation pilot project that started in Montreal, Quebec in an effort to reduce unnecessary food waste and food banks with the supplies they desperately need to provide for a growing user base, is expanding across the province.
Introduced in 2013 by Moisson Montréal as a two-year pilot project, the Supermarket Recovery Program diverted more than 2.5 million kg of food from landfills in 2016 alone with the help of 177 supermarkets across Montreal. Food is collected from supermarkets on a scheduled basis, then taken to a central distribution point and distributed to local food banks.
The overwhelming success of the program has prompted a chain reaction — more than 600 grocery stores all over Quebec will now be able to donate unsold baked goods, produce and meat to local food banks. The expansion of the program is expected to save as much as eight million kg of food each year.
“The idea behind it is: ‘Hey, we’ve got enough food in Quebec to feed everybody, let’s not be throwing things out,’” said Sam Watts of the Montreal Welcome Hall Mission. “Let’s be recuperating what we can recuperate and let’s make sure we get it to people who need it.”
The use of food banks among Canadians has skyrocketed in recent years, with approximately 900,000 people relying on their services. Of this number, 172,000 — a 38 percent increase on a 2008 baseline — call Quebec home. Recognizing the far-reaching benefits of the program, provincial officials have announced that they will be contributing US $300,000 to cover the program’s transportation costs.