United Reformed Church volunteers served more than 2,000 meals at Greenbelt festival in August. All the food was affordable, delicious and dumped by supermarkets and other shops as rubbish. Nikki Dravers of REfUSE, who provided the food, talks to Reform
We’re here at the popular yoURCafé at Greenbelt, where the ingredients are rescued from going to landfill. What’s the story?
I own REfUSE, which is a social enterprise in the north east in Chester-le-Street, County Durham. We are based out of a community café with a massive warehouse. It’s a huge food logistics operation where every month we collect about 13 tonnes of food that would otherwise have been thrown away. We drive around in an electric van, collecting food from supermarkets and retailers. It’s all amazing quality food and there are ridiculous reasons as to why it has been deemed waste, so we rescue it with a whole load of volunteers.
What are those reasons? Because that is an incredible amount of food.
There are all sorts of reasons. It might be, for example, that food is nearing, or past, its best-before date, and the best-before date is about quality, not safety. Fresh fruit and veg are fine past their best-before date.
Another reason might be a logistical error like labelling. We picked up 250 kilos of vegan cheese once because someone had typed an extra zero on the order number by accident. Or the barcodes are printed wrong on half a tonne of yoghurt, that kind of thing.
So there are all sorts of human errors, but there are also systemic problems. There are marketing problems around Christmas and Halloween – pumpkins with a best-before date of the day after Halloween, that kind of thing.
There’s all sorts of reasons as to why food is deemed waste. Our food system is broken, and we see the front end of that…
This article was published in the October 2023 edition of Reform