eat or heat: making the most of surplus food in 2013

A perfect food storm in 2013?

The rising cost of energy, food and transport combined with an effective reduction in disposable incomes meant many people went without this Christmas. Add in the Government’s drive for savings in the benefits budget, the cap on housing benefit and insufficient social housing and there are all the ingredients for the perfect food storm in 2013.  For the first time food is being delivered to centres in Lewes and there is talk of a Food Bank being set up mirroring initiatives in Uckfield, Heathfield, Hailsham and across the South. Many are now making eat or heat decisions and the growth in the incidence of food shoplifting bears witness to an increasing sense of desperation.

FareShare, Foodbanks and Plan Zheroes

Schemes such as FareShare (surplus food logistics) and Tressell Trust (Food Banks) tackle this need by redistributing surplus packaged food and tinned goods donated by supermarkets, food outlets and faith centres that would otherwise have gone straight to landfill.  Despite this the UK Food industry still sends millions of tonnes of prepared and cooked food to waste each year.  A group of London citizens believed it didn’t have to be this way and set up Plan Zheroes a charitable organisation that helps redistribute surplus food from restaurants,  food retailers, cafes and supermarkets to charities who then use it to feed those who are struggling to feed themselves.

Its so simple: the donor registers as a regular or occasional donor and indicates what surplus they are likely to have and when; the recipient registers to receive food specifying the type and quantity they are likely to require and how they’d like to pick it up or receive it.

Plan Zheroes in Sussex

Now this scheme is operating in Sussex and this Monday the V-Project set up in Lewes by a group of youngsters keen to provide a space for peer mentoring became the first recipient charity to sign up to take surplus food from Lewes based donors, East Sussex County Council, The Pelham Arms and Le Magasin.

In partnership with FareShare, Brighton, PlanZheroes is working on setting up new supply chains in Newhaven with NCDA and The Foyer (Salvation Army Housing Association residence for young people) and Uckfield.  More charity recipients and food donors are needed in Brighton, Lewes, Newhaven and Uckfield; all it takes is a couple of minutes to register on the PlanZheroes food map which you can find via their website.

One of our strongest supporters has been Councillor Ruth O’Keeffe who apart from promoting the Plan Zheroes initiative via her Radio Lewes programme has set up a meeting early in 2013 to try and consolidate all the various actitivities around making use of surplus food: Ruth helped launch the FareShare deliveries to Lewes and works tirelessly to ensure the less fortunate members of her consituencies have food on their tables.

And finally during a visit to Waitrose Lewes on Sunday afternoon I came across dozens of ‘unwanted’ red cabbages that were marked down in price.  Thanks to one of the partners Nikki we are now in dialogue with their local management about enrolling them as an occasional donor working alongside their other surplus food distribution channels.