Make local causes a priority this World Food Day, says Neighbourly

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By Steve Butterworth, CEO of Neighbourly

Today marks World Food Day, an opportunity to raise awareness of how precarious our food supply is and how climate change is affecting food production and distribution, and vice versa. More than three billion people, almost 40 per cent of the world’s population, cannot afford a healthy diet.

Here in the UK, one in three children are living in poverty and an estimated 14 million people, about one-fifth of the UK population, are suffering in impossible situations, where paying bills and putting food on the table can be incredibly difficult. Last year more than 2.5 million people in the UK used a food bank.

This year it is more important than ever to reflect on how we can improve our food systems. We know that the coming winter is going to be an enormous challenge for millions of families – many are still struggling with the financial and emotional consequences of the pandemic. Our charity partners tell us they are preparing for an upsurge in demand following the ending of the furlough scheme and Universal Credit uplift.

While we know that surplus food isn’t a long-term solution to food insecurity, we believe we should be respectful of the planet’s resources and make sure that as much as possible of the 9.5 million tonnes of food that goes to waste every year is put to good use. Right now, food banks and frontline community organisations are providing a major lifeline for people and need as much support as we can provide.

Food waste has a devastating impact on the environment. If global food waste were a country, it would be third largest producer of CO2 emissions behind the USA and China. The dual benefits of food redistribution are clear.

It is so important for businesses to scale up their food redistribution programmes, particularly ahead of what is certain to be an incredibly tough winter. World Food Day is the perfect moment to reach out to voluntary organisations to ask them what they will need over the following months and how to best support them.

Neighbourly has been working with local charities across the UK since 2014. During this time, we have learned that the most effective way to make an impact is by thinking and connecting locally, with voluntary organisations and charities that have deep relationships in communities and who understand the immediate needs of local people and families.

Today Neighbourly is home to a network of more than 18,000 charities, schools and community groups across the UK and Ireland. Working together, Neighbourly’s business partners have diverted total of over 66 million meals into communities, while saving a combined total of 105 kilotonnes of CO2 emissions, which demonstrates the incredible impact of collaborative action against food waste.

Our network of charities and community groups provide food direct to the people who need it, through homeless centres, breakfast clubs, community centres, community fridges, community cafes, night shelters, refuges, churches and hospices.

This was demonstrated so powerfully during the pandemic, when hyperlocal networks stepped in to fill the void left by national services. As we recover from the pandemic, we have a tremendous opportunity to build on what we learned and invest in networks that have a proven track record of delivery. This year, let’s make World Food Day a day to make a commitment to local causes.