Food waste is a huge problem in the UK. Almost seven million tonnes of it is thrown away by households each year, according to The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
In the retail sector alone, 1.6m tonnes of perfectly edible food goes in the bin.
In total a colossal ten million tonnes is wasted every year via household waste, manufacturing, food service and hospitality and retail.
As many struggle to find the money to feed their families, projects in Lancaster are being set up to try to reduce the waste, address social issues, and leave people better off both health wise and financially.
It’s barely scratching the surface, but Lancaster and District Homeless Action Service, The Robert Gillow pub and Halton’s People’s Cafe have all recently launched food interception projects, and now Lancaster Community Labour Club is also getting savvy with the idea.
Deborah Finn, a psychologist based in Lancaster, set up the organisation last month, and as well as offering two bags of shopping for £2 to members, she is also working on a project with Lancaster’s KFC.
We could feed whole countries just from the amount of waste in the UKDeborah Finn
She said: “The food interception is our first project.
“It’s one step back from the Labour Party - there’s no formal connection, and no funding.
“We used to have Labour Social Clubs all over the country, which also partly acted as a benevolent society for those facing hardship as well.
“But times changed in the 1980s.
“People became more aspirational, quite rightly, and Labour sold off all these properties, but never found a way to have a presence in the community again.
“It is not political, it’s about building community.”
Already 60 people have attended the weekly meetings at The Friends Meeting House in Meeting House Lane.
“There’s a massive amount of waste within the food system,” she said.
“We could feed whole countries just from the amount of waste in the UK.
“A lot of food is wasted even before it gets to the supermarkets and is left in regional hubs.
“Supermarkets routinely over-order and then make a late cancellation, or the labels may not look right or the packaging might be damaged. Food is wasted at farm level, whole fields of crops are ploughed back into the ground, and at manufacturing level as well.
“Up until recently it was just thrown away, but now the food is intercepted.”
Preston based charity Fair Share Lancashire and Cumbria was set up last year to save good food destined for waste and send it to charities and community groups who transform it into nutritious meals for vulnerable people.
The food it redistributes is fresh and in-date surplus from the food industry.
Deborah explained: “This is not a project for the needy and homeless, but together it gets us a better deal.
“We’re not providing a total solution here, but what it can do is allow people to spend more on other things like fresh produce.”
Mandy Holten, who attends the meetings, said that up until a year ago she was in good health and had a secure job, but a chronic illness led her to fall on hard times.
She said: “One year ago I was in good health and had a secure job.
With just seven years left to run on the mortgage the future was finally looking more certain.
“I was hearing on the news of the hardship being suffered by others and of the increasing need for food banks. Shortly afterwards I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, and my ability to work all but diminished.
“I was always fully aware that you do not have to be feckless to fall on hard times and if proof of this were needed there are plenty of living examples currently attending The Lancaster Labour Community Club. It is a place where people can both be supported and give support; and with such a diversity of experience at hand there are no limits to the benefits this could bring individuals.
“In my short time at the club I have witnessed a redundant teacher chuckling at the witty reminisces of a retired bus driver.
“The young chef who is currently on a zero-hours contract is happy to share recipes. The club is a reminder to us all that you don’t have to be rich to be generous, and even in times of trouble and illness we still have a lot to contribute.”
Deborah said the group hoped to grow into a cooperative that continued to build on the local community, and that she was now working with KFC in Lancaster to intercept their waste food too.
She said: “KFC cannot keep their food hot for more than two hours, so they’ll take it out, quick freeze it, and we collect it.
“What we’re hoping to develop is chicken dinner nights. We’ll save up the chicken and hold events in community venues in Lancaster.
“In terms of the other food, it’s fairly random. There’s a certain level of predicatability - cereal, pasta sauces for example, and then suddenly there’ll be a glut of oranges. They send us a preferences sheet.
“We have a wide range of members at the moment – people who have to watch their budgets, people interested in food waste, but the rule remains the same.
“We must pay our £2 subs, and join in with the meetings. This is a club, it’s about community building, rather than self interest.”
To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the group’s Facebook page.