Food waste and hunger in the UK


Millions of tonnes of good food is wasted by the UK food industry every year. At the same time, millions of people are struggling to afford to eat. Our work addresses these two issues by redistributing food industry surplus, which would otherwise go to waste, to the people who need it most.

Read more about the context of our work here.

11 million people in the UK are struggling to get enough to eat

This represents nearly 1 in 6 of the UK’s population. Figures from The Food Foundation

Hunger in the UK

Over 4 million tonnes of food wasted across the food industry each year is good-to-eat when it’s discarded. That good-to-eat wasted food is enough for an estimated 10 billion meals. That food should be helping frontline organisations support their communities, rather than going to waste. Meanwhile, 11 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat (an estimated 8 million adults and 3 million children). Those numbers have soared as a result of the cost of living crisis.

6.2 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry every year in the UK

Figures from World Wide Fund for Nature.

Food waste in the food industry

By “food industry” we mean all businesses involved in the supply of food. It includes everyone from farmers and growers to manufacturers and processors to wholesalers, retailers and food service companies.

4.6 million tonnes of the food that goes to waste each year is still edible

That’s enough for 7 billion meals. Figures from World Wide Fund for Nature and WRAP.

Surplus food in the supply chain

We call food that isn’t going to be sold, but which is still edible, surplus food. Food becomes surplus for simple reasons such as over-production, labelling errors or short shelf-life. Surplus food occurs everywhere in the supply chain from field through to fork. Here’s a breakdown of where it occurs and how much:

  • Farms: 2,900,000 tonnes1
  • Manufacturing: 700,000 tonnes2
  • Retail: 200,000 tonnes3
  • Hospitality and Food Services: 800,000 tonnes4

The waste hierarchy calls for food to feed people first

It is a legal requirement for UK companies to operate according to these principles. The food and drink waste hierarchy is statutory guidance from the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs.

Feed people first

The waste hierarchy sets out five steps for dealing with waste, ranked according to their environmental impact. It states that surplus food should be used to feed people first before it is sent to animal feed or energy.

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