The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Mella Frewen, Director General of FoodDrinkEurope.


Food waste is a scourge that must be stopped. Treating food as a disposable commodity exacerbates resource scarcity and hunger, both of which are amongst the 17 UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). Agreed in September 2015, the UN recognises reducing food waste as a key component of working towards goal n° 12 which sets the target to halve global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and to reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses by 2030.

The European Food and Drink industry is in a unique position to tackle this issue. We are able to reach billions of people across the world and to help them improve their behaviour towards food waste. In parallel, we also develop partnerships all along the food chain, since achieving progress in the fight against food waste is everyone’s responsibility. Together, we need to achieve meaningful change and we are fully aware of this

We want to help implementing goal 12.3 and that’s why we’re working with partners to find solutions for preventing food loss and waste, at every point along the chain and we’re already well on the way. However, despite our efforts, some food surpluses cannot be avoided and yet, less than 10% of edible food surplus is redistributed. The question then becomes what to do next. We think the obvious answer is food donation.

FoodDrinkEurope, the European Food and Drink industry’s organisation, is taking a leading role in encouraging companies to commit to prevent food waste. In partnership with the European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA) and through our ‘Every Meal Matters’ Initiative, we have produced industry guidelines which provide a simple framework around how to anticipate and prepare for food and drink surpluses. Starting with the basics, we lay out the what, who, when, where and how of food donation, encouraging the industry to make the most of the opportunity to cut food waste and give back.

Food donation is just as much about preventing food waste as it is about contributing to society. All donated food must be safe and perfectly edible, so it can be used to help people in need. By donating, companies demonstrate engagement with tackling food insecurity and local community development. Nestlé – for example, has been doing this for decades. In the UK, they have donated over a million meals to FareShare, a charity addressing food poverty.

It wasn’t just socially beneficial work either, Nestlé’s donation to FareShare diverted 460 tonnes of food that was edible and safe to consume from landfill, saving money for the firm. Additionally, on donating, manufacturers may profit from tax deductions or other fiscal incentives. This can be a genuine win-win for all concerned, for the donor companies, for the food banks and other charities, for those in need and of course, for the environment.

Examples of successful food donation efforts often rely on strong partnerships with not-for-profit organisations. These may be food banks and soup kitchens, or social enterprises that sell food at very low prices to those in need. Nestlé has developed long-term relationships with the Spanish Federation of Food Banks and a social enterprise in Stockholm: Stadsmission.

Partnerships may result in joint initiatives, or large campaigns where manufacturers partner with many organisations across a variety of countries. The Kellogg’s ‘Breakfasts for Better Days’ programme has so far donated 138 million servings to 21,000 community projects in 21 European countries.

In addition, industry may directly engage staff in donating time to, or sharing expertise with, non-profit partners. For instance, Unilever’s efforts in the Netherlands resulted in 50,000 €-worth of donated time to help improve the logistics of their food bank partners.

Our efforts are already accomplishing a lot but, as always, more needs to be done. In order to meet the 2030 goal, more companies in the food and drink industry need to commit to preventing food loss and waste. Through leading by example and widely sharing achievements, individual companies and organisations like ours can demonstrate the social, economic and environmental value of food waste prevention and food donation.

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