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Charities Criticise Tesco’s Evening-Only Food Collection Policy

Tesco is under fire from charities struggling to distribute unwanted food to homeless and hungry people due to new rules requiring evening-only collections.

The supermarket giant has transitioned to a system where charities must collect surplus food, such as items nearing their best-before dates, only in the evening when stores close, rather than the following morning. This shift has left several local groups, including Food for Charities in Oxford, Abingdon Community Fridge, and Zero Carbon Guildford Community Fridge, struggling to meet the needs of their communities.

In a letter to Tesco, the charities warned that the new collection schedule prevents surplus food from reaching those in need, forcing some groups to purchase food for distribution. They have also initiated a petition urging Tesco to reverse the policy.

“Most of us struggle to find volunteers to pick up in the evenings. Most of our charities do not have recipients for ‘evening food’ such as meat and sandwiches because we close our doors before the Tesco food is available,” the letter states. “We do not have room for freezers, or our freezers are located in community facilities that are locked in the evening, or we do not feel happy sending lone volunteers into a building to put food in a freezer.”

Additionally, some charities reported that their priority access to Sunday collection slots has been compromised, placing them in competition with users of the Olio food waste app, which can include well-off families.

FareShare, the charity overseeing Tesco’s waste collection process, acknowledged the “estate-wide change,” explaining that it enables the donation of chilled food alongside longer-life items, which is not feasible with morning collections due to safety concerns with ‘use by’ dates.

However, Tesco refuted claims of widespread changes, asserting that it has always encouraged the 2,700 local charities collecting food from its stores to do so in the evening rather than the morning. The supermarket also maintained that Sunday collections are no different from any other day of the week.

Riki Therivel, Director of Food for Charities, highlighted the lack of warning about the change, which has resulted in her group spending around £50 a week on food purchases. She noted that the amount of food available for their community fridge system, which feeds hundreds of people, has halved. “It’s a big shock for us and an increased expense. We can’t pick up in the evening so we will be getting less food in future,” she said. “It is difficult for charities to pivot.”

Farrah Rainfly, Operations Manager at Lifeafterhummus in north London, expressed her frustration, stating, “It really is putting profits before people. Treating people in need of food like garbage disposal.”

A Tesco spokesperson responded: “We work hard to prevent food from going to waste and donate millions of unsold meals from our stores to local charities and community groups each month. We’ll always prioritise local charities to receive food from FareShare, but, if they are not able to collect the food, we offer it to other local groups or distribute it to the local community for free via the food waste app Olio to prevent good food from going to waste.”

Olio confirmed that charities have priority in receiving collection slots.

FareShare added that it connects directly with 20 Tesco distribution centres to provide food to thousands of charities nationwide, with end-of-day surplus distribution from stores supplementing this system. “Tesco has been instrumental in supporting FareShare’s mission to combat the environmental impact of food waste, ensuring good food goes to people, not waste,” a FareShare spokesperson said.

This controversy follows revelations that thousands of tonnes of unwanted food Tesco believed was being used to feed animals had instead been diverted to energy generation, significantly impacting its efforts to reduce food waste.

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Charities Criticise Tesco’s Evening-Only Food Collection Policy