Surplus food from Tesco's supply chain helps millions

Lindsay Boswell
Lindsay Boswell
Chief Executive of Fareshare

Lindsay Boswell, CEO of food redistribution charity Fareshare and campaigner Rosie Boycott look around Tesco’s Dagenham Distribution Centre.

I visited the Tesco Dagenham Distribution Centre (DC) recently and was struck by how huge it was, surely the largest fridge in London. This DC has been working with FareShare for more than three years. It redistributes food, that might otherwise go to waste, to charities and community groups across the UK. 

To date, Tesco’s 21 DCs across the UK have donated over 13 million meals worth of surplus food to people in need. I was keen to show Rosie Boycott, campaigner and food adviser to the Mayor of London, how the process works.

How DCs reduce food waste

The DC is effectively a huge fridge where food orders arrive and are then dispatched to stores across London. I say fridge but there's also a freezer and an ambient area where fresh goods, which don’t need refrigerating, are stored. DC Manager Craig Lucking showed us around the busy centre which is the largest of its kind in the UK. To give you an idea of the scale, the centre handles half a million boxes of food, including 550,000 prepared sandwiches, every single day.

There is sometimes a tiny percentage of food which is deemed to be surplus. This means it’s either more than Tesco ordered, slightly damaged or in some way not suitable for sending to stores. It’s all good quality food of course, that's good to eat. It's usually meat, dairy, bakery and fruit and vegetables. The food has plenty of life left on it, so can be put to good use by organisations that feed people in need.

This food is set aside in a designated part of the DC and then delivered to FareShare London, in Deptford. From there, we distribute it to more than 2,500 charities and community groups across the UK. These include homeless shelters, children’s breakfast clubs and older people’s lunch clubs. 

Surplus food from stores

This is just one of the ways we work with Tesco to reduce food waste. FareShare FoodCloud has also connected over 800 Tesco stores with charitable organisations as part of the Community Food Connection programme. Together, we're trying to squeeze as much social goodness out of every ounce of surplus food as possible.

Redistributing surplus food is about more than providing meals.  Food may be what gets someone through the door, but the charities and community groups also deliver life-changing services. They help to address the causes of hunger, reduce social isolation, and get people back on their feet. That’s where the magic happens.

As we reflected on our tour of the DC, I asked Rosie Boycott what she thought of the work that Tesco is doing to tackle food waste in the supply chain. She told the Tesco team: 

“It’s really impressive. It’s brilliant. I can see it’s working well. You guys are doing a brilliant job.” 

I couldn’t agree more.


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