UK (University of Hertfordshire) University of Hertfordshire research finds redistributing waste food saves UK £225 million a year

New research by the University of Hertfordshire has discovered that a major UK charity’s work redistributing waste food has a social and economic value of £225 million a year for the UK economy.

The study, carried out by the Hertfordshire Business School for FareShare, the UK’s largest food redistribution charity, measured the financial impact redistributing surplus, good-to-eat food is having for both the government and the beneficiaries.

It found the charity’s work – reallocating food that would otherwise have just been thrown away – to a network of charities and community groups working to tackle food insecurity and poverty, directly saved the government £117,568,637, and collectively those receiving the food £107,661,372 over the year.

According to the report, FareShare redirected 53,894 tonnes of surplus food to over a million people across the UK between 2021-2022, via a network of 9,462 charities including food banks. Through their redistribution work, they also supported other important services such as domestic violence shelters, older people’s lunch clubs – which tackle both hunger and loneliness – and school breakfast and after school clubs.

Herts researchers highlighted that providing access to nutritious food for vulnerable people made significant savings to NHS, childcare and food waste disposal costs. This includes a significant reduction in hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease and mental health support.

Dr Christopher Nicholas, Dr Tassos Patokos and Dr Aarti Rughoo, who authored the report, said:

“Our research estimates FareShare’s economic and social impact at almost a quarter of a billion pounds. This goes far beyond the value of the actual food that gets redistributed, as it also takes into account a variety of outcomes that would not have been possible without FareShare – such as improved physical and mental health of the beneficiaries. Given the cost-of-living crisis and its impact on people’s lives, our study shows how crucial FareShare’s contribution is in saving food that would otherwise go to waste and in helping communities face these tough times.”

As a result of the report, FareShare is now calling on the government to invest £25 million a year into waste food redistribution, which they say would deliver 42,500 tonnes of surplus food – the equivalent of 100 million meals – to those experiencing food insecurity and make it cost-neutral for farmers and food businesses to redistribute their surplus food by paying for labour, packaging and transport.

FareShare CEO Lindsay Boswell CBE said:

“There will always be surplus food, but we believe, and this research proves, that surplus acts as a gateway for other services, helping individuals and strengthening our communities through food. Not only does a more balanced diet produce obvious health benefits, but sharing a meal brings people together and can tackle loneliness. The cost avoided by the state is a staggering £118 million a year, yet so much of this delicious surplus food goes to waste in our farms and factories every year. This is indefensible when so many people across the UK are struggling. We need the government to invest in food redistribution and get good food to people who need it, not let it go to waste.”