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Spotlight on food redistribution


In our latest ‘Spotlight on’ article as part of the Climate Action Programme, Katie Powell, Senior Consultant at Resource Futures, shares howKatie Powell businesses can ensure any surplus food they generate is effectively redistributed.

There are several different elements to the impact of food waste. There are environmental impacts in relation to the energy required to produce food and the packaging it comes in. There is the social impact of food going to waste during a cost-of-living crisis and with so many people in food poverty. Then there is the economic impact, the cost associated with wasting food you’ve purchased as well as the cost of then disposing of that food waste and related packaging. Plus, for food businesses this is your work, your pride and joy, and you don’t want to see it go to waste.

Reduce, redistribute, recycle

Of course, the first step for any business dealing with food and drink is to try and prevent and reduce surplus and waste to begin with. However, there is always a level of uncertainty with food businesses which can result in surplus. Any inedible waste should be composted or recycled but food that could be enjoyed by someone else can be redistributed.

The earlier you can identify any surplus and make food redistribution services aware the better. Being aware of product shelf life will enable you to support redistribution services to provide the most nutritious food they can to those most in need.

Matching surplus and need

There are many organisations doing great work around food redistribution in Bristol but with so many people in food poverty, the demand on their services is high and there is not enough food coming in. Yet food is still being wasted every day, creating an opportunity for food businesses and redistribution services to work together.

Boxes of surplus foodAt Resource Futures we’ve focused the work of Bristol’s Food Redistribution Group on developing a tool to enable businesses to understand where best to send their surplus food to make sure it’s going to best use. Food redistribution organisations often face challenges when they are offered or given food that they are unable to process. We wanted to make it easier for businesses to understand what to do with their surplus food to meet their needs, the needs of the redistribution services and ultimately provide food to people who need it.

The Food redistribution tool allows businesses to filter redistribution services based on the amount and type of food they have available, and factors like whether they can deliver, if it includes alcohol, and whether it’s one-off surplus or could become a regular donation. This then streamlines the list to provide the contact details of the most appropriate redistribution organisation.

Finding the right service

There are a variety of groups in Bristol who can help. The partners included in the tool are:

  • FareShare South West who have large storage capacity and large scale partnerships, for example with supermarkets and food manufacturers. They also have community connections that enable them to process larger amounts of surplus food. They are looking to partner with more local businesses.
  • Neighbourly who also have large storage capacity and large scale partnerships, and can take donations of more than just food. They are able to process frozen food and work directly with small charities and food banks to redistribute food.
  • Avon Gleaning Network who are volunteer based and work directly with farms and growers to harvest or collect surplus fruit and veg
    Group of people holding boxes of surplus food

    Credit: Avon Gleaning Network

    and redistribute it to charitable food projects.

  • Too Good To Go who redistribute direct to consumers and can therefore process individual portions of food. Food businesses can still recoup some money through this service as consumers pay for the food. This service is more suitable for cafes, restaurants, and convenience stores.
  • FoodCycle who use surplus food to make meals for the community and create a safe space for people to come together and enjoy food.
  • The Wild Goose who offer hot meals to anyone experiencing hunger and homelessness.
  • Food On Our Doorstep (FOOD) Clubs who provide good-quality food at low cost direct to families.

There are also several food banks and other small, volunteer run food redistribution services in the city. These can change quite regularly and are usually only set up to accept small irregular amounts of dry or canned food. Feeding Bristol, a charity working towards food justice, are the main point of contact for these organisations.

Next time you have any surplus food that could help provide a nutritious meal for someone, have a go at using the tool and let us know how you get on, we’d love to share your story and hear your feedback.

Useful links


The Partnership’s Climate Action Programme supports organisations of all sizes and sectors to reduce their carbon emissions and prepare for the impacts of a changing climate through free events, resources, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. Find out more and get involved.


Graph showing food redistributed by volume

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