Borough Market calls on food industry to tackle waste

Borough Market is tackling food waste by redistributing top quality, surplus produce to 30 charities across London; providing meals for those in need.  Britain’s best-known market has been working with zero food waste charity Plan Zheroes since 2014, and this week marks the provision of the 100,000th meal for vulnerable Londoners.  The meal will take place at the Healthy Living Club in Lambeth, a community group which provides meals and activities for people with dementia and their carers.

8.4 million people, the equivalent of the entire population of London, reported having uncertain or insufficient access to food in the UK in 2014, yet just 17,000 tonnes of the 270,000 tonnes of edible surplus food in the grocery supply chain is redistributed annually to charities.  Borough Market is calling on the food industry to focus on helping charities to redistribute surplus produce through the provision of suitable storage and dedicated volunteers.

Over the last year, Borough Market and Plan Zheroes have saved close to 17,000 Kilogrammes of surplus food from going to waste – equivalent to 33,358 meals.

Borough Market has contributed funding for Plan Zheroes to co-ordinate the twice-weekly food collections and manage a new ‘Borough Delivers’ scheme.  Surplus produce is taken directly from traders and delivered by volunteers on an electric-assisted, zero-emission bike funded by the Evening Standard’s Food for London campaign. This has enabled Borough Market to avoid pollution during delivery and reach charities that are unable to collect the produce themselves.

The initiative involves over 40 volunteers each year and 44 traders from Borough Market, with the top 5 contributors (by weight) being: Ted’s Veg, Bread Ahead Bakery & School, Turnips, Olivier’s Bakery and Northfield Farm.  The majority of surplus food donated by traders is fruit and vegetables, followed by baked goods, but the market’s recent investment in new storage equipment means that meat, fish and dairy can now also be provided to charities.

Charities benefiting from the gourmet produce include: Dragon Café, run by Mental Fight Club which serves up meals to people who have experienced mental health problems; The Healthy Living Club, a community group which provides meals and activities for people with dementia and their carers and St Mungo’s, a homelessness charity and housing association that provides shelter and support to more than 2,500 people a night throughout London and the Southeast.

Waste reduction is central to Borough Market’s drive to promote a responsible, sustainable approach to food production and consumption. Traders and tenants are encouraged to plan effectively, ensure that storage methods are as finely tuned as possible and espouse a philosophy that values quality and sustainability over profit. However, the number of shoppers day to day can be affected by changes in the weather, or disruption on the London Underground, meaning that a certain level of surplus is unavoidable.

The announcement of the 100,000th charity meal coincides with London’s first ever Circular Economy Week, taking place across this week (18-22 June) to help inspire organisations in the capital to take action to deliver a more resilient, sustainable and resource-efficient economy.

Darren Henaghan, managing director, Borough Market, said: “Waste reduction in all its forms is fundamental to the culture of Borough Market. The community here has long been at the forefront of sustainability best practice, and customers are encouraged to eat with the seasons, question the provenance of ingredients, favour pasture-fed meat, prize meat and fish as items of value rather than everyday staples, buy only what’s needed and eat every bit of it. Produce left over at closing time may not be suitable for selling on the next trading day, but that doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly edible in the short term.  One of the issues we’re trying to address is the redistribution of this surplus produce – some smaller charities just don’t have the manpower to collect or store food, and we want to encourage the food industry to eliminate food waste by making sure that leftover produce can reach those most in need.”

Laura Hopper, CEO, Plan Zheroes said: “It’s amazing what has been achieved at Borough Market over the last few years. We’re so grateful to the market team for their support and help in developing this initiative. By bringing together a wide range of people in the community – traders, charities and volunteers – this project shows how we can all work together to ensure that good food gets to people who need it rather than end up as waste. We hope that by sharing the results of this work, more businesses will be encouraged to redistribute their surplus food.”

Simona Florio, coordinator, Healthy Living Club said: “If it weren’t for Plan Zheroes and Borough Market, our small charity would not even have considered putting in the bids for funding that allowed us to start out a lunch club for elderly people who live with dementia and other life-limiting conditions, and who were at risk of social isolation.  Funders are unlikely to cover 100% of a project’s costs and thanks to Borough Market providing the food for free, we were able to offer the value of the food as part of our match funding.  In other words, the hard work that Plan Zheroes and Borough Market’s joyful crew puts into supplying ingredients free of charge is, effectively, part of the seed funding for a project that has fed our members five days a week for the last 8 months, and which is still ongoing. This is amazing, as is the quality of the ingredients.”