FareShare has allowed local charities to deliver more than five million extra meals to people in need in the first year of a new partnership with Tesco, and has also doubled the number of charities which use its service.
The FareShare FoodCloud project was a new departure for the food waste charity. Its core offer is a “vans and volunteers” operation, which takes in large quantities of surplus food from the UK food industry and redistributes it to member charities via its network of 20 warehouses. Its member charities pay an annual management fee to gain access to the food.
But this operating model was no good for surplus food unsold at store level. These comparatively small amounts of short-dated fresh food could not travel large distances to a warehouse, as they would soon become unfit for human consumption. The charity knew it had to devise a new model to deal with food waste within stores.
FareShare’s chief executive, Lindsay Boswell, said FareShare already had a relationship with Tesco, handling the “invisible” surpluses generated within the retailer’s supply chain. But Tesco would not highlight its good work in this area because it knew it remained open to criticism for the volumes wasted at store level, which amounted to about 1 per cent of all food sold.
“Supermarkets actually waste very little food, because they are seriously efficient and seriously cut-throat, so they will only take off their suppliers what they are pretty confident they will sell,” said Boswell. “But they are massive businesses so even 1 per cent is still a lot of food.”
FareShare was desperate to find a way to help Tesco tackle its retail food waste problem, for two reasons: “From a mission perspective it made sense for us to find a way to connect charities with supermarkets so they could get more food, and from a strategic perspective we knew that if we could help Tesco with its problem, it would send more of its suppliers to us when they have surpluses.”
The charity realised it needed to connect local stores directly with local charities, bypassing the conventional FareShare warehouse system. It then set about finding a technological solution to enable this to happen, and the result was the FoodCloud app.
FoodCloud is loaded onto hand-held devices carried by staff in Tesco’s stores. Food reaching the end of its shelf-life is scanned into the machine and at the end of each day a local charity receives a text message telling them what food is available. The charity texts back to confirm, and then goes and collects the food to serve meals for hungry people.
By the end of the first year, FareShare FoodCloud had redistributed more than 2,100 tonnes of food – enough for five million meals – to 3,300 charities and community groups. All 830 large and medium-format Tesco stores are engaged in the scheme and by the end of 2017 it will be rolled out to all 3,000+ branches.