Neighbourly – Written evidence (FPO0066)


Steve Butterworth, on behalf of Neighbourly Limited.


  1. About Neighbourly - background


Neighbourly is a giving platform that helps large businesses donate time, money and product surplus to local good causes and make a positive social impact.


Neighbourly was launched in 2015, with an initial focus on helping facilitate corporate volunteering programmes and donation management. A back-of-store food surplus programme was introduced the following year, which has since redistributed the equivalent of over 17 million meals of surplus food. Food clients include M&S, Lidl, Aldi, Innocent Drinks and Danone, supporting a network of over 2,500 charities and local organisations who receive the surplus food for free, coordinated via the Neighbourly platform. Neighbourly enables the reporting of evidence and impact under WRAP’s ‘Target, Measure, Act’ methodology:Tonnes donated, Meals donated, CO2 savings, Money saved and people helped. The Neighbourly platform encompasses nearly 11,000 individual good causes including charities, non-profits and community organisations.


Neighbourly is a founding member of the UK B Corporation movement, using business as a force for good. We have been credited for our food redistribution programme with a National Recycling Award, Tech 4 Good Award, Ethical Corporation Award, Digital Impact Agenda Award and recognised as a Guardian Sustainable Business.


  1.              Sources 


Sources of research referred to within this document:


Periodically we survey our community of 11,000 good causes to give us feedback on certain programmes, themes and needs/requirements at a local level. Most recently we ran a ‘Community Pulse’ survey (August 2019), with 500+ individuals responding who represent Neighbourly charities (70% of these receiving food surplus donations). The objective of the survey was to gain insights into current concerns, perceived contributing factors to those concerns, and future expectations and suggestions.


In addition, we periodically commission independent research projects with YouGov to look into consumer trends across our areas of interest. In July 2019, YouGov ran a survey for us on ‘Shopping & Waste’ with 2000 UK consumers, helping to provide us with insights into food waste levels against household income levels and frequency of shopping. 


  1.              Questions addressed 


We have selected to submit a response to questions 1, 3, 5, 11 and 13.


Other questions are not within our core area of expertise.


  1.              Responses


Question 1) What are the key causes of food insecurity in the UK? Can you outline any significant trends in food insecurity in the UK? To what extent (and why) have these challenges persisted over a number of years?


Question 3) How accessible is healthy food? What factors or barriers affect people’s ability to consume a healthy diet? Do these factors affect populations living in rural and urban areas differently?


The parliamentary report ‘Sustainable Development Goals in the UK follow up: Hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity in the UK’ cites three major themes in the evidence collected relating to the causes of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition:



Evidence from our ‘Community Pulse’ survey from August 2019 supports these themes. In relation to a question around what external factors have contributed to concerns that front-line food charities have about the future, key factors given include:



The following Word Cloud highlights responses, where the size of the word is proportional to the frequency it was mentioned by respondents across all the answers (i.e. the more mentions the bigger the word), helping to easily identify themes and patterns across responses:



Question 5) What can be learnt from food banks and other charitable responses to hunger? What role should they play?


Food banks and other organisations that support vulnerable members of society have universally seen an increase in the demand for emergency food provision over the past few years. In response, there has been an extension of service provision, offering additional support to help people resolve their crisis, as well as a move towards a more campaign driven stance against the root causes of poverty.


Between April 2018 and March 2019, it was reported that the 1,200 food banks in The Trussell Trust network provided a record 1.6 million food supplies to people in crisis, a 19% increase on the previous year. Food banks are also braced for surge in demand after a no-deal Brexit, with charities warning that any squeeze on the most impoverished will leave more families unable to put food on the table.

It is generally accepted that whilst food banks play a vital role in their communities, we should be striving for a society where they aren't needed - and in response to levels of hunger and food bank usage, organisations like The Trussell Trust are campaigning to end the need for food banks by challenging the structural economic issues that lock people into poverty.


Our experience at Neighbourly is that ‘food banks’ actually only make up a small proportion of causes helping to alleviate the problem of getting surplus to those in need. The type of charity that provides this type of support is changing and we’ve seen a significant uplift in schools joining the scheme to support hungry children, as well as community centres, independent living schemes, night shelters and soup kitchens etc. Many of the organisations that join Neighbourly classified (for example) as a community centre, school or church also run a food bank, community fridge or pay-as-you-feel cafe as part of their evolved service in response to those in crisis within their community. The immediate need for food often helps get people through the doors of organisations like the Matthew Tree Project that then provide a comprehensive “wrap around support programme for families living in the UK who are in crisis and food poverty”.


Schools in particular have become “an unofficial fourth emergency service for vulnerable families across England and Wales, offering food parcels, clothing and laundry facilities to those worst affected by austerity”, according to a report by a headteachers’ union.


Evidence from our ‘Community Pulse’ survey from September 2019 supports these themes:


11) How effective are any current measures operated or assisted by Government, local authorities, or others to minimise food waste? What further action is required to minimise food waste?

Date labelling on food sold in the UK has been accused of generating both confusion as well as a vast amount of food waste. Research by the makers of food-waste app Too Good To Go shows that British homes threw away 720m eggs in 2018, with one in three saying they will bin any carton that is out of date. Eggs in the UK carry a best-before date, not a use-by date, indicating that most people still don’t understand the difference. 74% of respondents to a 2016 Women’s Institute (WI) survey knew that “use by” was about safety, but only 45% knew that “best before” wasn’t. 


Research from the waste reduction charity Wrap shows that UK households throw away more than 7m tonnes of food a year. They have also found that as much as 30% of the food binned for being “past it’s date” had a best-before; suggesting that it probably didn’t need to be binned and that a better understanding of food date labeling is crucial.


As as result, Wrap published best practice guidance labelling in November 2017 to significantly reduce the two million tonnes of food thrown away each year from UK homes due to it not being used in time and also help deliver a four-fold increase in surplus food redistribution by 2025.


The guidance includes key information on how to apply food date labels, storage and freezing advice to ensure food is safe to eat, reduce consumer food waste and remove some of the barriers to redistribution.


In May 2018 Tesco made a commitment to axe ‘confusing’ best before dates on its own-brand fruit and vegetables and items in a drive to reduce food waste and there is opportunity for others to follow their lead with similar initiatives.


A research project from YouGov that closely followed the Tesco announcement in June 2018 showed that amongst UK consumers there is general agreement that efforts to reduced food wastage, particularly in the way Tesco is intending, is a good idea. Over half (57%) of consumers believed that Tesco’s strategy will be significant in reducing overall food wastage. It suggested that whilst there is a base level of understanding about the differences, grocery stores still have some work educating the public on this issue.


The survey also highlighted that removing the labels could have notable impact on shopping behaviour. Almost four in ten (39%) say that if food didn’t have ‘best before’ labels they would probably buy smaller quantities to ensure their fresh produce was used before going off. But it could at the same time present challenges for consumers who would feel uncomfortable without some kind of guide - particularly young people.

In removing ‘best before’ dates, retailers would be taking a notable step that could make some consumers approach food shopping in a different way, but they would need to work hard to educate some consumers about the change, and make sure that the policy doesn’t push confused consumers to branded fresh items, where they’ll have the safety net of printed best before guidance.


13) Has sufficient research been conducted to provide a robust analysis of the links between poverty, food insecurity, health inequalities and the sustainability of food production? How well is existing research on the impact of existing food policy used to inform decision making?

Neighbourly cannot comment on whether sufficient research has been conducted to provide a robust analysis of the links between poverty, food insecurity, health inequalities and the sustainability of food production, or on the use of existing research on the impact of existing food policy used to inform decision making. However, we are happy to share our own findings further to the recent YouGov poll we commissioned on ‘Shopping & Waste’. In summary:



Analysis of this research is ongoing, with further conclusions to be drawn up, but we are happy to share the findings on request.


Steve Butterworth, on behalf of Neighbourly Limited.


12 September 2019