Supplementary written evidence submitted by FareShare (FS0101)

FareShare's Written Evidence for Efra Committee Food Security Inquiry 



  1. Executive Summary

1.1.         FareShare is the UK’s largest charity fighting hunger and food waste.

1.2.         FareShare is submitting further evidence to the inquiry on food security, in response to statements made by Mark Spencer and Therese Coffey in their respective evidence to the committee.

1.3.         The government’s own strategy and policies set the precedent that there is a role for government in funding surplus food redistribution.

1.4.         Surplus food redistribution will help the government achieve environmental and social aims in the immediate and the long-term.

1.5.         Demand for surplus food from charities and people in need caused by the rising cost of living far outweighs what our current resources allow us to access.

1.6.         FareShare is asking for £25 million annually to make it cost neutral for farmers, growers and producers to pick, package and transport their surplus food, instead of it going to waste or other destinations.

1.7.         This proposal has demonstrable support from the public, the charity sector, and members of parliament.

  1. About FareShare

2.1.         FareShare is the UK’s largest charity fighting hunger and food waste. We take good-to-eat surplus food from across the food industry, sort it in our regional warehouses across the UK or via our app FareShare Go, and pass it onto a network of nearly 9,500 charities and community groups. These include food banks and pantries, hostels, refuges, community centres, older people’s lunch clubs, school clubs and hospices. Two thirds of the organisations we provide food to support children and families. During the last financial year, 2021-22, FareShare redistributed the equivalent of nearly 130 million meals - that’s 4 meals every second.

2.2.         Our CEO Lindsay Boswell gave oral evidence to the select committee on the food security inquiry on 22 November 2022. This was preceded by written evidence submitted by our organisation.

2.3.         Since this happened, Mark Spencer gave evidence to the inquiry, and Therese Coffey also appeared in front of the committee. Both were asked questions relevant to FareShare’s areas of operations and expertise.


2.4.         FareShare welcomes the opportunity to submit further evidence based on these comments.


  1. Responses to statements by the Rt Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, made to the EFRA committee on 6 December 2022.


3.1.         Therese Coffey: “I don’t know the basis of the Food Foundation report. I do know that when I was at DWP I made sure questions were put into the family resources survey, which is the most comprehensive survey we do. I increased the number of people participating in that.”

3.2.         While the DWP’s family resource survey is incredibly comprehensive, the research done by the Food Foundation has the benefit of offering a more up-to-date snapshot of the state of food insecurity.

3.3.         Whereas the family resource survey is published year, the Food Foundation release their new survey approximately every 3-6 months. Though less comprehensive than the DWP, the methodology used is robust and well documented. The frequency of the Food Foundation reports makes them an invaluable source of information, alongside the longer-term surveys run by the DWP.

3.4.         Therese Coffey: “The Government will not be providing free food, and it is not the role of Government to provide free food.”

3.5.         Conservative governments have recently and regularly provided free food to people via FareShare. They have also written it in to policy papers and strategies.

3.6.         In 2019, the FareShare received a £1.9 million grant as part of a £15 million government-led trial project, spearheaded by then Secretary of State for Defra, Michael Gove, to tackle food waste, including by funding surplus food redistribution.[1] Despite the conservative government’s commitment to the project, in the years since not all of the promised funds have been spent on surplus food redistribution.

3.7.         Food waste reduction continues to be an aim of government, as stated in multiple policy documents including the Government Food Strategy,[2] the Net Zero Strategy,[3] and the 25 Year Environment Plan.[4] The latter of these specifically commits to taking “action to support the redistribution of unsold edible and nutritious surplus stock from food businesses to individuals in need.”[5]

3.8.         Charitable surplus food redistribution is listed as the first recommended step for any initiative dealing with unpreventable food surplus and waste in the government’s own food waste reduction hierarchy.[6] It should thus be a necessary consideration in any government food waste reduction plans.

3.9.         By supporting local community organisations that tackle the causes, not just the symptoms, of food insecurity and poverty, charitable food redistribution also contributes towards the governments social aims including Levelling Up initiatives and the Community Resilience strategy.[7]

3.10.      Though the 2019 Defra funding was not continued, the governments of Wales and Scotland have played a key role in funding the continuation of FareShare’s Surplus With Purpose (SWP) programme, an initiative sparked by the 2019 funding to support farmers in overcoming cost barriers to charitable surplus food donation, in their nations.

3.11.      The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments additionally provide elements of core funding to FareShare’s network of regional centres, recognising their contribution across diverse policy areas including tackling food insecurity, reducing waste and supporting communities.

3.12.      The EFRA committee has recommended that Defra fund FareShare’s SWP scheme twice in the last two years.[8]

3.13.      Thus far, Defra has failed to act on the recommendations of this committee and recommit to funding surplus food redistribution.

3.14.      As part of the government’s Covid-19 response, the Government gave FareShare £26.5 million in grants to purchase food from the food industry. FareShare redistributed it to community organisations across the country, who used provide free food to people.

3.15.      Both in normal times, and times of crisis, the recent Conservative governments have provided people with free food via FareShare.

  1. Statements on the role of government given as evidence by the right hon. Mark Spencer MP, Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the EFRA committee on 24 January 2023.

4.1.         Mark Spencer: “[Farmers] want to have a positive impact on the land that it is their privilege to occupy at that time, and they want to produce great food. The Government have a role to try to support them in achieving all those things and to assist them in improving biodiversity and the environmental impact they are having.

4.2.         FareShare’s proposed funding for surplus food redistribution would support farmers who wish increase their positive impact on the environment by making it cost-effective for them to dispose of their unsellable food in an environmentally and socially friendly way.

4.3.         Mark Spencer: “As long as we are [ensuring people’s diet and ability to consume food] in a way that is environmentally friendly and responsible, and we are secure in our ability to procure that food, that is a good thing.”

4.4.         Allowing good food to go uneaten has significant negative environmental consequences. New research by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has found that the amount of food wasted on the UK’s farms is much higher than previously measured, at 2.9 million tonnes per year. This food accounts for 6 million tonnes of CO2e emissions.[9]

4.5.         Charitable food redistribution has been shown to be the most environmentally friendly way to deal with edible surplus, producing 17 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the next best alternative, conversion to animal feed.[10]

4.6.         Mark Spencer: I think [tackling hunger] is a shared responsibility. It is not a metric that is easy to measure.

4.7.         Though the problem of food insecurity is a complex one, there are, in fact, many insightful and reliable measures of its causes, correlates, and effects.

4.8.         As discussed above, the DWP release a comprehensive assessment of food insecurity every three years in their family resources survey.

4.9.         The Food Foundation also produces regular research giving and up-to-date picture of the state of food insecurity in the UK.

4.10.      FareShare’s own surveys of the 9,500 charities and community groups we support show that the overwhelming majority of these organisations (90%) report that they have seen an increase in demand and that they need more food to keep up.

4.11.      Mark Spencer: Clearly, DEFRA has a role in ensuring that the food is there on the shelf. The Department for Work and Pensions has a role in ensuring that people are supplied with incomes that can procure that food. The Treasury has stepped in in a huge way to help and support households with the cost challenges that they face. It is a cross-Government response.

4.12.      Ensuring food makes it to store shelves and is purchasable by the public is clearly a key priority; however, there is and likely will always be a certain percentage of edible food that cannot be sold.

4.13.      FareShare suggests that it is equally important to ensure this food that cannot be sold but is still good to eat also makes it to the shelves, in this case the shelves of food pantries, charities, and community organisations.

  1. Response to statement on poverty and food insecurity made by the right hon. Mark Spencer MP, Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the EFRA committee on 24 January 2023.

5.1.         Mark Spencer: We work across the whole sector to try to make sure that there are adequate food supplies for everybody, and that food is readily available to everybody. Of course, the primary way of delivering that is through our retailers, direct to consumers. The best way to solve this challenge is to make sure that people facing that economic challenge no longer face it, and the way you do that is through the interventions we have provided with the Department for Work and Pensions, but also by making sure that work pays, and that people can work their way out of poverty.

5.2.         There is a clear need to support long-term solutions to food poverty, but the fact is that as many as 1 in 5 people in the UK are facing food insecurity.[11] They need help now.

5.3.         At the same time, there are over 7 billion meals worth of good surplus food going to waste in the UK.[12] We must work to address this immediate need, even while we work towards long term solutions.

5.4.         Food can help local organisations address immediate needs while simultaneously working towards longer term goals. Some 87% of the charities FareShare supplies surplus food to provide support services beyond food. These are vital community services include employment training, mental health and wellbeing support, and childcare, that help tackle the long-term causes of poverty and food insecurity.

5.5.         FareShare’s work has been recognised as helping to build community resilience through the creation of ‘food ladders’ – a term for when immediate food support food is used as a gateway to further community strengthening initiatives. Researcher Dr. Megan Blake commented on the importance of such initiatives: “The answer to food insecurity isn’t just affordability and money, it’s about helping communities to create resilience so they can recover from emergencies more easily or avoid them all together.”[13]

  1. Statements on food supply and sources of surplus by Mark Spencer, David Kennedy CB (Director General for Food, Biosecurity and Trade, DEFRA), and Derek Thomas, EFRA committee member and MP for St Ives, West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to the EFRA committee on 24 January 2023.

6.1.         Derek Thomas: Finally, do you accept that there is probably a national conversation to be had about the food we produce, and how much of it actually gets into the home and feeds the families we are concerned for? I have visited food banks, and it is quite staggering to see supermarkets deliver enormous containers of food that they cannot sell. They have obviously purchased far too much, or baked far too much bread, and even the food bank is struggling to pass that on in a timely way. Given the pressure in terms of the food available, might the Government need to lead a national discussion about the journey that food takes from the field right through to people’s homes, in order to address these issues?

6.2.         It’s true that there is a great deal of surplus food across the industry, however we are not currently able to meet demand from the charities we serve. Despite what we know about the volumes of surplus food on farms, in factories, and in supermarkets, we do not currently have the budget or infrastructure to access and distribute it at the scale required.

6.3.         Too much food is not a problem the charity sector is currently facing. FareShare has a waiting list of around 1,500 organisations who are in need of food to support their communities.

6.4.         In a recent survey of our charities, 76% reported that they need access to more food to help them deal with the demands brought on by rising inflation.

6.5.         Mark Spencer: Again, I think the market is quite good at delivering. Nobody wants that inefficiency, do they? The primary producer does not want that inefficiency; they want to sell as much as they have produced—they do not want to waste it. There are alternative routes; if you take the fresh veg sector, there are alternative routes for misshapen or broken vegetables, which can go to animal feed or into anaerobic digestion.

6.6.         It is incredibly inefficient to grow good, edible food and not use it to feed people. The 2.9 million tonnes of edible surplus food going to waste on farms indicates that, despite the best efforts of producers, there is a significant amount of good food not being sold.

6.7.         When food is good to eat, it should go to feed people.

6.8.         Secondary uses like animal feed and anaerobic digestion (AD) are great ways to make use of surplus food that is not fit for human consumption, but the first priority should be to get edible food to people who need it. This is the recommendation of the government’s own food waste hierarchy.

6.9.         Subsidies to AD are currently worth £750 million annually,[14] far outweighing government support to direct surplus food towards people. This distorts the market, financially incentivising food businesses to send food to AD than to give it to charities through the practice of ‘negative gate fees’.

6.10.      The volume of subsidies to anaerobic digestion is in contrast to the government’s own recommendations in their food waste hierarchy.

6.11.      Mark Spencer: The retailer does not want that waste either; they want to purchase as much of that food as possible and sell it, because otherwise it is lost margin. There is a lot of drive in those sectors to drive efficiency and stop food waste.

6.12.      It’s true that retailers and others in the industry are doing the best they can to make every bit of food profitable. Nonetheless, there remains a great deal of surplus, particularly in primary production, which cannot be sold despite the best efforts of the industry.

6.13.      The fact that retailers are now finding ways to sell product that may once have been considered surplus means that some sources of charitable food redistribution are now more limited. This makes it all the more crucial to divert remaining surplus, particularly in primary production, to charities.

6.14.      David Kennedy: To put some figures on it, 70% of food waste is in the home, and 30% is in the supply chain.

6.15.      These figures reflect post-farm gate waste. New research from the WWF enables us to better account for food waste and loss in primary production.

6.16.      We now know that nearly half (49%) of food waste occurs in the supply chain, a much greater number than previously reported.[15]

6.17.      Derek Thomas: We have picked on the supermarkets a bit, in terms of how they are pricing food. There is also a massive problem with food waste, sometimes in the field, sometimes through the supermarkets procuring food but then not selling it, and obviously in our homes. During the covid pandemic, the Government supported farmers in donating to FareShare, but DEFRA has chosen not to continue that. Why was that decision made, and is there more than can be done to make sure that food is never left rotting either in the ground or in skips outside supermarkets?

Mark Spencer: FareShare is a very good charity. They have done a lot of work to help people get access to food, and I pay tribute to that. They are in communication with retailers directly, and they get a lot of support to help them pass on food that is reaching its best before date so that it can be consumed before then. There is also a role for education, because the best before date does not mean that something is not fit to consume after the date on the label. I think I am right in saying that we found honey in Tutankhamun’s tomb that it was more than possible to consume, despite having been there for thousands of years, but if you go to your supermarket today, I guarantee that the date on the jar of honey will not be in 4,000 years’ time.

6.18.      We welcome changes to best before date policies, but in actuality our work has very little to do with date labels.

6.19.      Premature best before dates are only one of the many reasons that food becomes surplus and, though we hope that these changes will have a positive impact on reducing household food waste, they will not solve the issues that create surplus in the supply chain.

  1. FareShare’s Proposal

7.1.         We are asking the government for £25 million annually in funding. This would go towards making it cost neutral for farmers, growers and producers to pick, package and transport their surplus food, instead of it going to waste or other destinations.

7.2.         By doing this, the government could deliver 42,500 tonnes of surplus food, the equivalent of 100 million meals, to people worst hit by the cost of living crisis. It would save the government £140 million in costs avoided, and will prevent the waste of nearly 70,000 tonnes of embedded CO2e emissions.

7.3.         FareShare receives a great deal of support from food industry, from the public, and across parliament, but this has not yet manifested in concrete support from the government.

7.4.         Our proposal is widely supported by the charities we supply, over 1000 of whom have signed our letter to the government outlining our ask.

7.5.         In a recent survey of the charities we supply, over ¾ said that they believe the government is not doing enough to help charitable organisations access surplus food.

7.6.         Recent polling by FareShare found that 88% of the public believe surplus food should be donated to people and charities, and 78% think the Government should do more to help charities access surplus food.

7.7.         Recent polling by FareShare found that 88% of the public believe surplus food should be donated to people and charities, and 78% think the Government should do more to help charities access surplus food.


7.8.         As of writing, nearly 75,000 people have signed a petition started by a woman who accesses FareShare food through her local charity. The petition calls on the government to help get more food to people in need.

7.9.         FareShare’s call for surplus food redistribution funding to be reinstated and expanded has received cross-party support from more than 60 MPs.[16]

7.10.      Funding for surplus food redistribution fits with government policy frameworks. It would contribute positively towards economic, environmental, and social goals. Furthermore it is a role that the public believe government should fulfil.

7.11.      We ask that the government follow their own strategy and policy recommendations on food waste, and grant FareShare £25 million in funding to help us prevent 42,500 tonnes of food waste and get 100 million meals to people in need.


Written by Danika Dury and Ali Gourley on behalf of FareShare.

March 2023

[1] Defra (2018). Action to reduce food waste announced. Available at:  

[2] Defra (2022). Government food strategy. Available at:

[3] Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (2021). Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener. Available at:

[4] Defra (2018). 25 Year Environment Plan. Available at:

[5] Ibid., p. 90.

[6] Defra (2021). Food and drink waste hierarchy: deal with surplus and waste. Available at:

[7] Cabinet Office (2021). Public Response to Resilience Strategy: Call for Evidence. Available at: al-resilience-strategy-call-for-evidence/outcome/public-response-to-resilience-strategy-call-for-evidence

[8] Efra Committee (2021). Conclusions and recommendations. Available at:

[9] WWF (2022). Hidden Waste: The Scale and Impact of Food Waste in Primary Production. Available at: https://www.

[10] J.A. Moult, S.R. Allan, C.N. Hewitt, M. Berners-Lee. (2018). ‘Greenhouse gas emissions of food waste disposal options for UK retailers’, Food Policy, 77, pp. 50-58. Available at:

[11] The Food Foundation (2022). Food Insecurity Tracking. London. Available at:

[12] This meals calculation estimated by using 420g as a meal size, giving 2,381 meals from 1 tonne of surplus, which is the standard calculation recommended by WRAP. The wastage figure adds the WWF (2022) findings to WRAP’s previous estimates stated in: WRAP (2022), Surplus food redistribution in the UK 2015 to 2021, Available at:

[13] The University of Sheffield (2022). Moving beyond food banks. Available at:

[14] The Independent (2021). 150 million meals a year thrown away rather than given to hungry because of £600m government subsidies. Available at:  

[15] WWF (2022). Hidden Waste: The Scale and Impact of Food Waste in Primary Production. Available at: https://www.

[16] FareShare (2022). Parliamentary Supporters. Available at: