Plan Zheroes: A Southwark Response to Food Waste

No one reading this wastes food right? We’re all very conscious of how many tonnes a year get sent to landfill and do our upmost make our weekly shop go as far as possible…

Perhaps not (and I include myself in that statement).

So how many people reading this can truly say that when those bananas are starting to look a bit ropey their first thought is to look up banana cake recipes?

How many of us take a look at that loaf of bread that is on the turn and start about the process of getting on the bread and butter pudding vibe?

The easier option is to bin anything that many of us don’t have the time or inclination to rescue into something tasty and filling.

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But it's not only individuals that contribute to food waste.

The retail giant Tesco generated an astonishing 59,400 tonnes of food waste last year alone – which is the equivalent of nearly 119m meals. The amount wasted was the equivalent of one in every 100 food products sold. Buy 99 and get one free…

Tesco are the only supermarket to actually publish its food waste data so it doesn’t bear thinking about the combined amount when all of the other big boys of the food retail industry are considered – and that doesn’t factor in all of the restaurants, cafes, and corner shops that line the nation’s high streets.

Food waste costs the average family £60 a month, but it doesn’t only hit us in the pocket it also has a serious impact on the environment.  Producing, distributing, storing and cooking food uses energy, fuel and water. Each of these emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Take a block of cheese for example and think about the resources that go into raising the cows, processing the milk, transporting the cheese, refrigeration, the fuel we use to drive to the shop to buy it – all this to put it in the bin when it begins to turn… In the UK we throw away the equivalent of more than 3 million slices of cheese a day.

That’s a lot of cheese - and I’m not talking about my attempts at humour!

If all of us made more of an effort to waste less food we could prevent the equivalent of at least 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted, the same positive benefit as taking 1 in every 4 cars off our roads.

So what can I do about it I hear you cry!

As people are becoming more and more aware of the impact of food waste, organisations have been established by innovative thinkers to start tackling the issue.

One such organisation is Plan Zheroes -  a social network, where relationships are built between food businesses and charities, communication is quick and simple and food reaches those in need, safely and conveniently.

Plan Zheroes operates using a simple principle: identify sources of surplus food and connect those who have it with people who need.

When a business has surplus food to donate, they upload their information online. Nearby charities, who are registered with the service, are notified and can claim it online.

One of their key re-distribution projects is based at Borough Market – where around 15 traders regularly donate surplus food. This is then sorted through by volunteers and then distributed to charities around the borough that support a range of people include those who are homeless and low income families.

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So How Can You Help Plan Zheroes in Southwark?

There are several ways to get involved in championing the cause and doing your part to reduce food waste.

Food Businesses

Small or large, ranging from restaurants to supermarkets, catering companies to cafes and depending on the quantities and types of food and when it is available, you will be matched with local charities which will be suitable to receive your surplus food.

Charities or food receivers

Charities or local groups who use surplus food to serve those in food poverty such as the homeless or refuges, have a double role, in preventing food waste and stopping hunger. Plan Zheroes can help you access sources of surplus food and reduce your expenditure.

Volunteers

Plan Zheroes offers different ways to get involved with solving food poverty so you can choose what best suits your availability, interests and natural talents.

Move food: Sometimes food needs to be taken from a donor to a receiver, but neither have the means for transportation. Here’s where you come in.

Spread the word: Find businesses who want to do good with their surplus food and find charities who could make use of it.

Build relationships between charities and businesses and help them through any challenges. If you’re a real people-person, you’ll be a great Zheroes Linker!

Transporters

Zheroes Transporters are specialists in food logistics. They may be allowed to transport higher risk types of food, such as chilled food, frozen goods or hot food. They have a vehicle, space, time, spare resource and the willingness to use these for the benefit of the local community.

The key to Plan Zheroes’ success is maintaining and expanding the network of food suppliers and volunteers willing to help distribute the food. If you would like to get involved, or know of any businesses who have surplus food available on a regular basis, then get in touch with Plan Zheroes via email at info@planzheroes.org or give them a call on 07505617844. 

To find out more about the organisation and what they do you can visit their website.

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