Where does Eggcup’s food come from? Most of it comes from FareShare, a national organisation that collects surplus food, for instance from supermarket distribution centres. We drive down to the regional depot in Preston three times a week to pick it up. Other food comes from local donations, such as the food we got when restaurants shut for the first lockdown, or when supermarkets shut for Christmas. And each week we buy some essentials such as milk, bread, and eggs through our buying cooperative. It is great that we can get food from FareShare, because we can connect to people who need the food, and it also reduces the amount of food that would otherwise be wasted.
But a vast amount of food still goes to waste in the UK. Some of it needs a lot of work and processing, such as a field of sugar beets that no one is buying. Some of it has a short shelf life, so it needs to get out quickly, like much of the food we picked up on Christmas Eve. Eggcup has experience working with these more difficult sources, for instance when they got 25 kg bags of flour left at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, when commercial bakeries servicing catering and hospitality closed or reduced capacity. We repackaged hundreds of kilos into sizes our members could use.
But there is more we could do to access surpluses in the food production processes. An example would be the tomato sauce used in producing ready meals that will go out with a supermarket’s name on them. Making arrangements to pick up these surpluses can be difficult, because often the food is at manufacturing company, but the meal belongs to a supermarket that will put its name on the package. The supermarket may have its own arrangements for which organisation can get surpluses, but that organisation may not have the capacity or facilities for the manufacturing surplus. To access that kind of food, we would need some sort of national-level agreement about which organisations could be trusted to get this food to people who need it, so food manufacturers know who they can call when there is an overrun.
This is where a new network called Xcess comes in. It was launched on 28 January, and it was formed by surplus food organisations across the UK, including The Bread and Butter Thing in Manchester, Food Works in Sheffield, City Harvest in London, Blackpool Food Bank, and Food Cycle and His Church in many locations. Eggcup is pleased to be working with these organisations. Being part of this much bigger network, with its advisors, will help us access new sources, reduce waste and serve our members.
We will tell you more about Xcess as it develops. If you are interested now, you can find out more at xcess.org.uk.