Upscale U.K. Grocer Skips the Trash, Sends Leftover Food to Charity

All 500 of the retail stores will donate unsold food by next spring.
Marks & Spencer. (Photo: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters)
Oct 11, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

As the United Nations sets out to end hunger across the world in the next 15 years and slash food waste in half, one grocery store is doing its part to contribute to the global goals.

Marks & Spencer, an upscale British retail store, has established a plan to distribute food nearing its expiration date to local organizations in need, The Guardian reports.

Charities in need of food donations can sign up for free on Neighbourly, an app that connects businesses to social causes. Grocers take stock of surplus food and send an alert to homeless shelters and food banks in need. Marks & Spencer has begun piloting the program and will expand to 150 stores in December before including all 500 U.K. stores by spring 2016. It’s all part of the company’s pledge to cut food waste by 20 percent by 2020.

“This is the first nationwide redistribution scheme to provide an innovative, practical solution to surplus food redistribution by building local connections, enabling all our stores to link with local food projects and help support their communities,” Louise Nicholls, the chain’s head of responsible sourcing, told the Evening Standard.

Major U.K. food retailers Tesco and Sainsbury also donate leftover food to charities, but Marks & Spencer is the first to do so using an app.

A third of all food produced around the world is trashed annually. The U.K. is responsible for 15 million tons of food waste each year, according to the Waste Resources Action Programme. About 1 percent of that waste comes from major retailers.

Marks & Spencer stores send food waste to an anaerobic digestion system, according to The Guardian. That means food nearing its expiration date doesn’t sit in landfills, emitting harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—but it’s expensive, and it keeps food out of the mouths of people who need it.

Approximately 795 million people are food insecure, according to the World Food Programme. Although the majority of people who are hungry live in developing nations, some 5 million people in the U.K. are food insecure.