This article has been written by Isabel Jonet, President of the European Federation of Food Banks and published in the Health European Union newsletter of the European Commission.
In the EU, around 90 million tons of foods are wasted yearly (2006 estimate), while 55 million people suffer from food poverty.
Food donation is a key lever in Europe’s solutions both to reduce food waste and alleviate food poverty and social exclusion.
This is the core mission of food banks, nonprofit organizations whose volunteers recover safe surplus food from the supply chain and redistribute it to charitable agencies which help people in need. For instance, the Italian Fondazione Banco Alimentare Onlus is currently recovering surplus food from the Pavilions’ restaurants and food service points within Expo Milano 2015, including at the Commission's conference "Fight Food Waste, Feed the Planet" to be held on 15 October.
In addition to the daily efforts of food banks to raise awareness of food businesses, of public authorities and of civil society, a harmonised European approach would both facilitate the access to food sources and offer significant benefits for the abovementioned stakeholders in terms of resource efficiency and food security, as well as economic gains for business operators. Some recommendations:
Further clarification of EU and Member States food legislation (e.g. use of "best before" dates), food hygiene and VAT base.
Tax or financial incentives to help ensure donating surplus food does not cost more than disposing it for other uses.
Industry-charity donation guides which clarify liability and encourage businesses to embed redistribution mechanisms in their supply chain processes.
Financial support for Food Banks to increase their operating capacity and cover fresh products transformation or transport costs.
Tackling such a variety of issues, and in certain cases shortcomings, as well as defining new opportunities to help ensure that safe, surplus food is made available to people in need requires active collaboration amongst all players, as for instance through the Stakeholder Working Group on Food Losses and Waste chaired by DG Health and Food Safety (SANTE).
Let’s combine forces to make sure that safe surplus good food goes to those in greatest need rather than to the bin.