COVID-19, food waste and inequalities: realigning supply and demand

COVID-19, food waste and inequalities: realigning supply and demand

By
Laura Robinson
April 2, 2020

Over the last few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the delicate balance of our complex food supply chain out of kilter.

In the food service industry, where customers expect the freshest produce, many ingredients are prepped and sold within 48 hours of delivery. But as the sector ground to a halt overnight, the supply chain became overstocked with a glut of perishable and chilled products. At the same time, retailers saw their sales soar – resulting in dwindling surplus food donations to charities.  

So, we find ourselves in a strange situation. We have wholesalers and suppliers scrambling to avoid wasting surplus stock and waste management companies reporting a surge in household food waste. All while experts express concerns that a growing number of families are - due to illness, unemployment or isolation – at risk of food scarcity.  

With governments overwhelmed by crisis management on multiple fronts, thankfully businesses and charity sector organisations have taken the initiative to spot new solutions to redress the balance.

Wholesale and food service: donations and redistribution

From well-known chains such as Zizzi, McDonalds and Pizza Express to small local restaurants, many food service businesses are picking up the baton when it comes to transforming surplus supplies into food donations. Many are turning to charities like City Harvest or community-led initiatives like the Real Junk Food Project – a food waste supermarket – to distribute their products to health workers and the most vulnerable in local communities.

Where possible, sector representatives are also looking at options for commercial redistribution. Businesses like Ikea and Leon are transforming their restaurants into food markets that give priority to essential workers. The British Frozen Food Federation has even launched a “dating service” - an online platform that matches food service suppliers with surplus with grocery retailers facing increased demand. But due to the way that products are packed or labelled, not all wholesale or food service stock is suitable for retail channels, so solutions need to be identified on a case-by-case basis.

Foodsharing in the community: Olio launches #cook4kids

When it comes to reducing food waste at home, Olio – the food sharing app – makes it easy for over one million users to share leftover food with their neighbors. Having assessed the risks with the relevant authorities, they’ve communicated clearly about new measures to keep users safe, including integrating no contact pick-ups into essential shopping trips.

Their newly launched #cook4kids campaign goes a step further to reducing the gap between overstocked fridges and empty bellies. Eager to ensure that disadvantaged children can still enjoy hot meals while schools are closed, they’ve called on their users with sufficient food supplies to cook and share nutritious meals with local families. The initiative has already attracted significant support, thanks to a number of well-known chefs and bloggers jumping on board.

Digital solutions can help build resilience

The short shelf lives of perishable goods may mean that equitable redistribution is a challenge. But digital tools make it quicker and easier than ever to better understand the complexity of food systems and redress the balance between supply and demand.

In fact, experts anticipate that as shoppers become comfortable with online food shopping, they’ll start to order groceries a few days in advance of need, providing retailers with data that allows them to tailor their own ordering more appropriately. Apps, like Olio, also mean that anyone with a smartphone can be part of the solution.

So, let’s hope that once the coronavirus crisis is over, we can draw on these tools and behaviour shifts to proactively strengthen food system resilience – and ultimately tackle future insecurities and inequalities more effectively.

Written by
Laura Robinson

From policy geek to digital consultant, Laura has always enjoyed bringing people together through words or tools to drive positive change. She is most proud of finally taking the leap into entrepreneurship by founding Pink Pear Agency - a network of passionate specialists who help food businesses grow innovative projects and share their stories with the world. Laura is currently interested in project development and management, digital tools, content strategy and copywriting.

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Over the last few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the delicate balance of our complex food supply chain out of kilter.

In the food service industry, where customers expect the freshest produce, many ingredients are prepped and sold within 48 hours of delivery. But as the sector ground to a halt overnight, the supply chain became overstocked with a glut of perishable and chilled products. At the same time, retailers saw their sales soar – resulting in dwindling surplus food donations to charities.  

So, we find ourselves in a strange situation. We have wholesalers and suppliers scrambling to avoid wasting surplus stock and waste management companies reporting a surge in household food waste. All while experts express concerns that a growing number of families are - due to illness, unemployment or isolation – at risk of food scarcity.  

With governments overwhelmed by crisis management on multiple fronts, thankfully businesses and charity sector organisations have taken the initiative to spot new solutions to redress the balance.

Wholesale and food service: donations and redistribution

From well-known chains such as Zizzi, McDonalds and Pizza Express to small local restaurants, many food service businesses are picking up the baton when it comes to transforming surplus supplies into food donations. Many are turning to charities like City Harvest or community-led initiatives like the Real Junk Food Project – a food waste supermarket – to distribute their products to health workers and the most vulnerable in local communities.

Where possible, sector representatives are also looking at options for commercial redistribution. Businesses like Ikea and Leon are transforming their restaurants into food markets that give priority to essential workers. The British Frozen Food Federation has even launched a “dating service” - an online platform that matches food service suppliers with surplus with grocery retailers facing increased demand. But due to the way that products are packed or labelled, not all wholesale or food service stock is suitable for retail channels, so solutions need to be identified on a case-by-case basis.

Foodsharing in the community: Olio launches #cook4kids

When it comes to reducing food waste at home, Olio – the food sharing app – makes it easy for over one million users to share leftover food with their neighbors. Having assessed the risks with the relevant authorities, they’ve communicated clearly about new measures to keep users safe, including integrating no contact pick-ups into essential shopping trips.

Their newly launched #cook4kids campaign goes a step further to reducing the gap between overstocked fridges and empty bellies. Eager to ensure that disadvantaged children can still enjoy hot meals while schools are closed, they’ve called on their users with sufficient food supplies to cook and share nutritious meals with local families. The initiative has already attracted significant support, thanks to a number of well-known chefs and bloggers jumping on board.

Digital solutions can help build resilience

The short shelf lives of perishable goods may mean that equitable redistribution is a challenge. But digital tools make it quicker and easier than ever to better understand the complexity of food systems and redress the balance between supply and demand.

In fact, experts anticipate that as shoppers become comfortable with online food shopping, they’ll start to order groceries a few days in advance of need, providing retailers with data that allows them to tailor their own ordering more appropriately. Apps, like Olio, also mean that anyone with a smartphone can be part of the solution.

So, let’s hope that once the coronavirus crisis is over, we can draw on these tools and behaviour shifts to proactively strengthen food system resilience – and ultimately tackle future insecurities and inequalities more effectively.

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Over the last few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the delicate balance of our complex food supply chain out of kilter.

In the food service industry, where customers expect the freshest produce, many ingredients are prepped and sold within 48 hours of delivery. But as the sector ground to a halt overnight, the supply chain became overstocked with a glut of perishable and chilled products. At the same time, retailers saw their sales soar – resulting in dwindling surplus food donations to charities.  

So, we find ourselves in a strange situation. We have wholesalers and suppliers scrambling to avoid wasting surplus stock and waste management companies reporting a surge in household food waste. All while experts express concerns that a growing number of families are - due to illness, unemployment or isolation – at risk of food scarcity.  

With governments overwhelmed by crisis management on multiple fronts, thankfully businesses and charity sector organisations have taken the initiative to spot new solutions to redress the balance.

Wholesale and food service: donations and redistribution

From well-known chains such as Zizzi, McDonalds and Pizza Express to small local restaurants, many food service businesses are picking up the baton when it comes to transforming surplus supplies into food donations. Many are turning to charities like City Harvest or community-led initiatives like the Real Junk Food Project – a food waste supermarket – to distribute their products to health workers and the most vulnerable in local communities.

Where possible, sector representatives are also looking at options for commercial redistribution. Businesses like Ikea and Leon are transforming their restaurants into food markets that give priority to essential workers. The British Frozen Food Federation has even launched a “dating service” - an online platform that matches food service suppliers with surplus with grocery retailers facing increased demand. But due to the way that products are packed or labelled, not all wholesale or food service stock is suitable for retail channels, so solutions need to be identified on a case-by-case basis.

Foodsharing in the community: Olio launches #cook4kids

When it comes to reducing food waste at home, Olio – the food sharing app – makes it easy for over one million users to share leftover food with their neighbors. Having assessed the risks with the relevant authorities, they’ve communicated clearly about new measures to keep users safe, including integrating no contact pick-ups into essential shopping trips.

Their newly launched #cook4kids campaign goes a step further to reducing the gap between overstocked fridges and empty bellies. Eager to ensure that disadvantaged children can still enjoy hot meals while schools are closed, they’ve called on their users with sufficient food supplies to cook and share nutritious meals with local families. The initiative has already attracted significant support, thanks to a number of well-known chefs and bloggers jumping on board.

Digital solutions can help build resilience

The short shelf lives of perishable goods may mean that equitable redistribution is a challenge. But digital tools make it quicker and easier than ever to better understand the complexity of food systems and redress the balance between supply and demand.

In fact, experts anticipate that as shoppers become comfortable with online food shopping, they’ll start to order groceries a few days in advance of need, providing retailers with data that allows them to tailor their own ordering more appropriately. Apps, like Olio, also mean that anyone with a smartphone can be part of the solution.

So, let’s hope that once the coronavirus crisis is over, we can draw on these tools and behaviour shifts to proactively strengthen food system resilience – and ultimately tackle future insecurities and inequalities more effectively.

Over the last few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the delicate balance of our complex food supply chain out of kilter.

In the food service industry, where customers expect the freshest produce, many ingredients are prepped and sold within 48 hours of delivery. But as the sector ground to a halt overnight, the supply chain became overstocked with a glut of perishable and chilled products. At the same time, retailers saw their sales soar – resulting in dwindling surplus food donations to charities.  

So, we find ourselves in a strange situation. We have wholesalers and suppliers scrambling to avoid wasting surplus stock and waste management companies reporting a surge in household food waste. All while experts express concerns that a growing number of families are - due to illness, unemployment or isolation – at risk of food scarcity.  

With governments overwhelmed by crisis management on multiple fronts, thankfully businesses and charity sector organisations have taken the initiative to spot new solutions to redress the balance.

Wholesale and food service: donations and redistribution

From well-known chains such as Zizzi, McDonalds and Pizza Express to small local restaurants, many food service businesses are picking up the baton when it comes to transforming surplus supplies into food donations. Many are turning to charities like City Harvest or community-led initiatives like the Real Junk Food Project – a food waste supermarket – to distribute their products to health workers and the most vulnerable in local communities.

Where possible, sector representatives are also looking at options for commercial redistribution. Businesses like Ikea and Leon are transforming their restaurants into food markets that give priority to essential workers. The British Frozen Food Federation has even launched a “dating service” - an online platform that matches food service suppliers with surplus with grocery retailers facing increased demand. But due to the way that products are packed or labelled, not all wholesale or food service stock is suitable for retail channels, so solutions need to be identified on a case-by-case basis.

Foodsharing in the community: Olio launches #cook4kids

When it comes to reducing food waste at home, Olio – the food sharing app – makes it easy for over one million users to share leftover food with their neighbors. Having assessed the risks with the relevant authorities, they’ve communicated clearly about new measures to keep users safe, including integrating no contact pick-ups into essential shopping trips.

Their newly launched #cook4kids campaign goes a step further to reducing the gap between overstocked fridges and empty bellies. Eager to ensure that disadvantaged children can still enjoy hot meals while schools are closed, they’ve called on their users with sufficient food supplies to cook and share nutritious meals with local families. The initiative has already attracted significant support, thanks to a number of well-known chefs and bloggers jumping on board.

Digital solutions can help build resilience

The short shelf lives of perishable goods may mean that equitable redistribution is a challenge. But digital tools make it quicker and easier than ever to better understand the complexity of food systems and redress the balance between supply and demand.

In fact, experts anticipate that as shoppers become comfortable with online food shopping, they’ll start to order groceries a few days in advance of need, providing retailers with data that allows them to tailor their own ordering more appropriately. Apps, like Olio, also mean that anyone with a smartphone can be part of the solution.

So, let’s hope that once the coronavirus crisis is over, we can draw on these tools and behaviour shifts to proactively strengthen food system resilience – and ultimately tackle future insecurities and inequalities more effectively.