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Source: City of Manchester

In March this year Manchester City Council along with the private and third sector joined together to fight hunger and provide access to basic essentials for residents in Manchester. 

The calling of a national lockdown meant that thousands of vulnerable residents were prevented from accessing food. To combat this urgent need a partnership response was quickly established to support more than 16,000 residents who contacted the City Council for support. 

Charities and private businesses played a huge role in helping source, pack and distribute food parcels to residents.

As the city prepares to weather a difficult winter a call is going out to businesses in Manchester to play their part once again and become a ‘Surplus Superhero.’ 

Because of the national lockdown now in place the partnership has adapted the way it delivers support in Manchester. The need for supplies remains and is likely to increase, as a result the network is asking local business for support in a different way – not with money, but by donating surplus food.

Manchester Council have already launched a web form – www.manchester.gov.uk/foodpartnership – so that organisations have a platform to offer up their surplus food. The website includes information about what a good quality safe donation looks like. Quality is more important than size, and donations can come in all sizes and shapes but must be edible, in date, safely managed and nourishing. 

More than 40 local food charities are involved including The Bread and Butter Thing, FareShare Manchester, Open Kitchen Manchester and Mustard Tree, as well as other smaller independent food banks and including support from the Co-op.

To assist companies the partnership is also offering 360-degree surplus food health checks with advice and practical solutions for businesses to identify food that could be made available for redistribution. They can assist businesses in identifying areas where economies can be made, and edible surplus be repurposed. The approach is to ensure a compliant, efficient service that should be as integrated as any waste channel and does not interfere with business as usual or cost companies more.
Manchester City Council is leading by example with new guidance in dealing with surplus food embedded into its procurement systems, ensuring its whole supply chain is engaged with helping to feed people across the city. The council will also offer its procurement expertise to other major organisations with significant supply chains to embed this good practise across its operations.

Councillor Bev Craig, Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing for Manchester City Council, said: “This is about finding good quality food to feed people, not asking for yesterday’s leftovers or the dredges of board meeting catering. This is much bigger and more important than that. We know that tonnes of edible food is just thrown away, but together we can use it to feed people in need. 

“This is all about collaboration and acting in the best interests of Manchester’s residents. Covid-19 has taught us a lot about how we can work together and continue to deliver the best possible support for local people together.

“At the beginning of the pandemic there was genuine concern within our communities on how people would manage, cut off from support and for some facing increasing hardship. For many being locked down posed serious questions about how they could feed themselves and their families. Fortunately, Mancunians are not inclined to stand by when people are in need. 

“The support we saw was incredible, not just from the public but also from the private and third sectors. This truly was a combined effort. We now need to harness that spirit again as we prepare to head into a challenging winter and do everything we can to protect the vulnerable.”

Mark Game, CEO of The Bread and Butter Thing explains: “Our approach is to maximise surplus donation whilst minimising operational impact. We want to find simple, cost effective solutions which benefit us all – socially, economically and environmentally.”

Michael Fletcher, Co-op’s Retail Chief Commercial Officer, says: “Across all the communities we serve we work to ensure that our surplus food supports local communities in need – whether it’s end-of-day items that we donate from our stores every day or significant batches of food from our suppliers. Manchester is a big part of our heritage so this call for additional support is close to our hearts. We actively encourage other local businesses to get involved so no good food goes to waste. It’s good for our communities and the environment, and we have a responsibility to play our part.” 

Some examples of success stories during the early months of the pandemic: 

Wilde Nuts – Donated in excess of 2,500 surplus bags of flavoured nuts. These had only a month remaining on their Best Before date so were not suitable for retail, however remained safe to eat beyond this date so were donated to food response. Wilde Nuts also provided surplus cardboard packing boxes and rubber gloves which were both used for packing purposes. 

Barr Soft Drinks – Contacted the team to donate a pallet full of mixed drinks to the food response call. These were reaching their Best Before date, so couldn’t be sold, but remained suitable for consumption and were eagerly distributed. 

Better UK – Following the British Athletics Championships, the Better UK team had 500 fresh, packed sandwiches, snacks and drinks left over. These were gratefully received and redistributed to families in need across the city.

To donate: 

www.manchester.gov.uk/foodpartnership 

To book a 360° surplus food health check: 

Food.response@manchester.gov.uk 

For advice in developing a procurement policy that addresses food surplus: 

Food.response@manchester.gov.uk

MIL OSI United Kingdom