Tesco has unveiled the nationwide rollout of an initiative it hopes will dramatically reduce the amount of food that goes to waste.
The move follows through on a farm to fork commitment made by the UK's leading grocery retailer to tackle food waste from its suppliers, through its stores, and customers’ homes.
The nationwide scheme - called Community Food Connection with FareShare FoodCloud - is being launched in 15 cities and regions across the UK, including Manchester, Birmingham, Southampton and Portsmouth.
In the coming months, the initiative will be rolled out to Leeds, Leicester, Kent and the West Midlands. Tesco has said it will reach all large Tesco stores - numbering over 800 - by the end of 2016, with all stores covered by the end of 2017.
Community Food Connection is powered by FareShare FoodCloud, an open platform that helps Tesco staff and charities work together.
Tesco also believes that once fully developed, other retailers could adopt FareShare FoodCloud to create an industry standard platform to make a real difference to local charities and communities.
Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis was recently appointed chair of a coalition of leaders from government, businesses, international organisations, research institutions, and civil society called Champions 12.3. This coalition will work to try and create political, business and social momentum to reduce food loss and waste around the world.
Lewis said: “We believe no food that could be eaten should be wasted – that’s why we have committed that no surplus food should go waste from our stores.
“We know it’s an issue our customers really care about, and wherever there’s surplus food at Tesco stores, we’re committed to donating it to local charities so we can help feed people in need.
“But we know the challenge is bigger than this and that’s why we’ve made a farm to fork commitment to reduce food waste upstream with our suppliers and in our own operations and downstream in our customers’ own homes.”
The scheme has already been piloted in fourteen Tesco stores over the past six months and has generated over 22 tonnes of food - the equivalent to 50,000 meals.
Tesco and FareShare are calling out for 5,000 charities and community groups to join up and receive free surplus food through the scheme, as part of a huge nationwide charity recruitment drive.
The scheme will be in place in all Tesco stores by the end of 2017, which means thousands of charities all over the country will benefit from millions of pounds worth of surplus food each year.
The latest figures show 55,400 tonnes of food were thrown away at Tesco stores and distribution centres in the UK last year, of which around 30,000 tonnes could otherwise have been eaten - equivalent to around 70 million meals.
Lindsay Boswell, FareShare CEO, said: “We are delighted to be offering our store level solution in partnership with Tesco who are demonstrating real leadership in tackling food surplus.”
“FareShare FoodCloud is a natural extension of our work together which has already provided nine million meals to help feed vulnerable people.”
“Our role as a trusted partner to the voluntary sector is really important to the charities and community groups we work with and we are excited to launch this new service with Tesco’s support.”
Tesco's next set of food waste data will be published by the retailer in May.