Sharon Hodgson MP

Washington & Gateshead South Constituency

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Food Waste and Food Distribution - Westminster Hall debate

At today’s Westminster Hall debate on Food Waste and Food Redistribution, I highlighted how tackling food waste is key to ending food insecurity and creating a sustainable food system.


Thank you to Company Shop for all the fantastic redistribution work you do in Washington, and across the UK.

Video - Food Waste and Food Distribution - Westminster Hall debate >

Read Sharon's contribution here >



Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Vaz. I thank the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) for securing this important debate.

Food redistribution services are fighting on the frontline of the food waste and climate crisis and must be supported. More than a third of all food in the UK is wasted, which is an absolutely shocking statistic. That waste contributes up to 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions and costs the UK economy over £20 billion a year, which is more than the entire aviation sector. There is always lots of public debate about the environmental impacts of aviation, but maybe it is time to shed more light on how we can support food redistribution schemes, which will be foundational if we are to have a more environmentally sustainable future.

In my constituency, I have a wonderful example of success in the redistribution sector called Company Shop, which we have heard about already. The Company Shop Group is a food redistribution service that has been able to transform unwanted products into usable, saleable goods for the benefit of my community and many others in various locations across the country. It understands that the UK throws away at least 10 million tonnes of food every year, but, incredibly, 6 million tonnes of that waste is avoidable and has a retail value of over £17 billion. That is where the Company Shop Group can prevent wasted food and salvage value that would otherwise have literally gone in the bin by reselling the surplus food at a discounted price to its members.

The store in my constituency has saved my constituents nearly £7.5 million on their shopping bills, while saving 2,649 tonnes of food from being binned. Those numbers are astonishing and represent 6.3 million meals that would otherwise have gone to landfill, where they would have fed no one and contributed to preventable environmental damage.

Benefits from food redistribution services such as this are felt by more than just our planet; they are felt in our constituents’ pockets too. As we have seen over the last few years, the cost of food can rise very quickly and fall very slowly, and contribute to growing levels of food insecurity and financial hardship for working people. Food redistribution schemes can be incredibly useful in preventing food waste and ensuring that our food system is more affordable and sustainable. Although the sector has seen incredible success from various charities, there is also vital work by social enterprises and commercial organisations such as the Company Shop Group that we can celebrate.

As the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on school food, I hear from food procurement specialists, school food providers, schools and families alike of the dire consequences of food insecurity. It is one of the major challenges policymakers currently face, and the most vulnerable in our society are those who suffer the most. We need to support charities, businesses and organisations to put food redistribution at the centre of their operations, so that we can save our constituents money and preserve the planet for future generations.

That is why many of us cautiously welcome DEFRA’s recent announcement that it will reconsider its earlier decision to delay mandatory food waste reporting for large food businesses until 2026. Due to overwhelming support for the policy from environmentalists, food and nutrition campaigners, food redistribution specialists, the public and businesses alike, the appetite for mandatory food waste reporting is at an all-time high. It is a relatively light-touch and simple intervention, which could be hugely cost-effective, incentivising large food businesses to cut down on their waste, and incentivising redistribution by organisations such as the Company Shop Group.

The food redistribution system has the potential to be incredibly efficient, as long as we achieve the joined-up policymaking that stakeholders across the sector are calling for. Last month, over 30 companies within the food, retail and manufacturing sectors signed an open letter organised by the food redistribution app Too Good to Go. If anybody has not used that app yet, I can highly recommend it, especially in London, where you can access anything within a few metres of where you are; that is not so much the case in the north-east, although I do still manage to use it there.

The letter called on the Government to introduce mandatory food waste reporting as soon as possible. By reporting on food wastage, we support redistribution schemes and tackle the crisis of food waste that was, for too long, a hidden evil in our food system. We need to put food redistribution at the centre of how we think about our food system, and we need the policies to make this happen. Repealing DEFRA’s 2026 timeline and introducing mandatory food waste reporting as soon as possible should be a good place to start. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Watch the full debate here >

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