Food waste is a common issue in our industry as all fresh produce essentially starts deteriorating the moment it is picked or harvested. Here at Bill Bean we try to cut down our waste as much as possible, but it is inevitable that some produce will end up deteriorating before we are able to sell it. Produce is usually divided into two main grades category 1 and category 2. Category 1 is the top-quality standard we usually supply on all lines, sometimes however, dependant on requirements better value can be had by utilizing category 2 produce. Not all fruit and veg has to be pretty, over ripe or bruised fruit is superb for jams and purees whilst blemished or scruffy veg is ideal for roasting etc. It is imperative to consider all possibilities around potential waste as it would be a shame to simply discard produce if somebody, somewhere can use it.
Unfortunately, there is a phenomenal amount of food waste in the UK. (The Guardian, 2019) has reported that more than £1bn of food destined for UK supermarkets is thrown away every year. This is a huge contribution to the problem of climate change and global warming. As agriculture accounts for 70% of the water used throughout the world, food waste represents a great waste of freshwater and ground water resources. It is said that a volume of water roughly three times the volume of Lake Geneva is used just to produce food that is not eaten (Move For Hunger, 2019).
If there is a possibility to salvage food discarded for waste and help those in need why not help? We have an unmoral number of people in the UK who are facing hunger, it should be a right for all individuals to be able to eat healthy and nutritious meals. 2.2 million people in Britain are severely food insecure which is the highest reported level in Europe. In addition to this, a recent study of food poverty demonstrated that in UK families of nearly 4 million children would struggle to afford enough fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods to meet the government’s recommended nutritional guidelines (The Independent, 2019).
I will be honest, the quantities of food waste you often see on New Spitalfields is quite astonishing, often pallets full of produce will be discarded if deemed not saleable. As soon as it falls below category 1 it often becomes a challenge to sell as most chefs insist on top quality and most suppliers (including us) are known for supplying only the finest quality produce. However, at Bill Bean hardly anything is ever wasted, discarded or thrown away. So, where does it go?
As we have a close connection with many of our customers, we have a rough idea on what category 2 produce they may be able to utilize at a reduced price. This saves food from being thrown away and offers lower cost options for recipes which simply do not require category 1 produce. For us, we would much rather offer goods under cost price or donate them for free instead of simply throwing them out.
We have also recently connected with City Harvest London and are now donating a lot of our non-saleable produce to them. They have redistributed food valued at more than £9 million, free, to their partners and offset 11,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases. This shows the impact discarded food can have on the environment and the benefit it can have for the community if donated.
Through the nights when we are packing and preparing your orders nothing goes in the bin. Any damaged produce or bruised and blemished fruit is all collected and saved. At the end of each night it is sorted and packaged ready for donation to members of the local community who visit New Spitalfields every morning specifically looking for any discarded produce. One lady visits us every Saturday and takes any produce we cannot sell to a local homeless shelter to cook and prepare meals for those less fortunate. We feel that as food service providers it is crucial that we look at our food waste responsibly rather than just see it as profit and loss.
Our supplier and grower, Pete Thompson has also found an innovative way to turn his food waste into profit. His family have been growing fruit and vegetables for markets, greengrocers and restaurants on their family run farm in Essex since 1948 and they grow and supply us with some of the finest seasonal produce year-round. They also produce a fresh organic apple juice called ‘Cotchel’ which is made from all their category 2 and discarded orchard fruit. This is a fantastic way to upcycle any potential food waste and the juice went on to win a UK great taste award.
If you want to be a part of reducing waste for the greater good then please contact us to find out more, we also recommend you download our app and follow us on Instagram to get the latest news and special offers from the market. There are also a few good food donation and sharing apps which are worth checking out and can be downloaded for free:
Olio App – Share more. Waste Less.
Karma App – Rescue unsold food.
Too Good To Go App – Eat well with a clean conscience.
https://www.moveforhunger.org/the-environmental-impact-of-food-waste/ (Move for Hunger, 2019)
http://www.cityharvest.org.uk/ (City Harvest, 2019)
https://www.cotchel.uk/our-juice (Cotchel, 2019)