Several British households are going through extremely difficult times. With the cost-of-living crisis in full swing, an alarming number of people are finding it hard to feed their families. Meanwhile, there is an enormous amount of food waste generated by excess supermarket stocking, restaurant overpreparation and uneaten leftovers.
By looking at these two issues in tandem, however, there is an enormous potential to effect change. Investec has decided to partner with two leading food charities in the UK that are using one problem to help solve the other and are making great strides.
Dr Ajit Menon, Head of People and Organisation for Investec plc, said: “At Investec, we have a history of supporting communities around us in the UK and South Africa, and firmly believe that when they are impacted by circumstances outside of their control, we have a role to play in providing support.”
The statistics around food poverty are exceedingly worrying. Prior to the cost-of-living crisis, 8% of the UK population was already facing food insecurity. Two million children live in households that struggle to afford enough fruit, vegetables, fish, and other healthy foods, which are essential to their development. At the same time, 64,000 people die from conditions related to poor diet every year.
These figures are expected to worsen over the next 12 months. Additionally, the food banks that provide much needed assistance will be under acute pressure themselves. Transportation and distribution costs have shot up, owing to higher energy prices, while one charity reported a drop of around 200 tonnes in monthly supermarket donations, as retailers move to reduce costs. Moreover, demand is expected to far exceed what these organisations can supply.
In contrast, the UK food industry produces three million tonnes of edible food waste each year, which means more than a quarter of all the food grown in the UK is never eaten. Food waste is generated across the supply chain, from producers and retailers, within hospitality, and by consumers themselves, and it represents an enormous environmental and social problem. The ‘wasted harvest’ of food products accounts for over 6% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions, and once it reaches landfill, food waste is a major source of methane.
Charities have been tackling food poverty for a long time. However, the recent focus on simultaneously reducing waste, which is under increasing scrutiny due to its environmental impact, has brought about meaningful solutions for both. Redirecting excess food to those in need is a win-win for businesses generating food waste as well as people struggling to put food on the table.
By partnering with non-profit organisations that are experienced in this area, we hope to have an impact. With the help of The Felix Project and FareShare, we have committed to delivering one million meals to people who need it most, while reducing food waste in the process.
FareShare is the UK’s largest food charity, which has been operating for almost 30 years. The organisation takes good quality, unsold food from the across the food supply chain and redistributes it to almost 11,000 charities and community groups. These support vulnerable individuals who are struggling with unemployment, low income, debt, homelessness, family break up, dependency or other issues. Last year, the charity delivered enough food for more than 130 million meals – or four meals per second – and prevented 75,371 tonnes of CO2e emissions from waste.
The Felix Project is a leading London-based charity that has recently taken over FareShare’s operations in the capital and now operates within FareShare’s network. Founded in 2016, the Felix Project collects nutritious food from over 539 suppliers, including supermarkets, wholesalers, farms, restaurants, and delis, and delivers it to almost 1000 front-line charities, primary schools, and holiday programmes, which reach over 400,000 Londoners every week. In 2021, the Felix Project rescued over 12,000 tonnes of food and delivered the equivalent of 30 million meals. This saved local charities £37m and prevented the needless creation of more than 32,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.
The power of purpose
This year, Investec will provide FareShare and The Felix Project with funding to deliver another one million meals around the UK. Charlotte Hill, OBE, and Chief Executive of The Felix Project, said: “Together, we can make a real difference to the lives of many of these people by providing nutritious surplus food in a time of great need.”
Lindsay Boswell CBE, Chief Executive of FareShare, added: “We are incredibly grateful to Investec for their generous donation, which will help us to provide surplus food to the nearly 9,500 frontline charities and community groups that are working around the clock to provide essential support to people facing hardship. This donation will allow us to invest in the infrastructure and equipment we need to deliver the equivalent of 130 million meals a year, helping us reach even more people in need of support.”
In addition to financial support, Investec is encouraging employees to take two days’ paid volunteering leave to help at depots operated by both charities across the UK. We will also establish food donation points in our London office, where staff will volunteer to drop off the donated items to the nearest food hub. Menon noted: “These partnerships will provide some measure of relief to the people who need it most, while also giving our colleagues opportunities to make a difference personally.”
At Investec, we believe that through creating enduring worth, we can help build a better society. The two charities’ dual focus on waste reduction and community support, by working closely with the food industry, the voluntary sector and regional and national government, naturally aligns with Investec’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 13 – Climate Action and our resolution to aid local communities.
While eradicating hunger and food waste is an enormous challenge, by providing one million meals to those who would otherwise go hungry and providing tangible support to these highly impactful charities, we are making a real impact on the community around us. If every business can give themselves a purpose and put their values into action, we will go a long way to solving these seemingly insurmountable issues.