Co-operative Food has agreed to roll out a programme to donate surplus chilled food at its depots to charity FareShare, which will distribute it to local third sector organisations and community groups.
While newly appointed shadow Defra secretary Kerry McCarthy, who has spearheaded a food waste reduction campaign, welcomed the news, she added that retailers still needed to take action elsewhere in their production line.
Today’s rollout of the Co-operative programme followed a trial at the company’s Castlewood depot in Derbyshire, which redistributed 32 tonnes of food in 10 weeks.
The business estimates that, in 2016, it could provide 500 tonnes of food from all depots, enough for more than a million meals, diverting it from anaerobic digestion plants.
WRAP director of sustainable food systems, Dr Richard Swannell, said: “This move will help Co-operative Food and suppliers reduce the amount of food that is lost, and contribute towards the targets of the Courtauld Commitment 3 voluntary agreement.”
FareShare chief executive Lindsay Boswell said: “By working with their suppliers, staff and FareShare regional centres, the Co-operative has demonstrated real commitment to preventing food waste in the long term and to providing edible surplus food to projects supporting vulnerable people across England, Wales and Scotland.”
Co-operative Food chief executive of retail, Steve Murrells, said: “Only a tiny percentage of total food waste, around 1.3%, comes from the grocery retail industry, but we are committed to reducing this. We are very grateful to all the suppliers that have agreed to support this initiative.”
Labour MP McCarthy (pictured) said Murrells was wrong to say that supermarkets are responsible for only 1.3% of the 15 million tonnes of food thrown away in UK.
She posted on social media: “Supermarkets are responsible for lots more waste in their supply chain, from farm through production to store.”
McCarthy introduced her 10-minute rule Food Waste (Reduction) Bill to Parliament last week, which proposed that large supermarkets, manufacturers and distributors should reduce their food waste by 30% by 2025 and disclose levels of food waste in their supply chain.
A second reading of the bill, which also seeks incentives and further encouragement for companies implementing the food waste reduction hierarchy, has been scheduled for 29 January.
Other major retailers including Morrisons and Tesco have already agreed to distribute some of their food waste to charities.