According to the national figures available from WRAP and projects like ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ ( ) 18 million tonnes of food waste, worth £23 billion, is sent to landfill or ‘incineration’ every year. Two thirds of this comes from producers, suppliers and retailers.
Local charity Devon & Cornwall Food Action was established in 2010 to intercept some of these supplies and to redistribute them, via a network of partner organisations, to vulnerable communities across the South West. By the end of 2016 DCFA had collected over 261 tonnes of surplus food; with a value of over £846,932. They were working with 43 local suppliers and 128 community organisations and supporting the homeless, the elderly, refugees and asylum seekers, vulnerable families, veterans and many more…..almost 6000 a month in Plymouth alone.
A ‘sustainability aware’ charity they also monitor the carbon footprint of these supplies and, to date, have prevented over 116 tCO2 from adding to the South West’s carbon footprint. With three ‘food hubs’ – in Exeter, Plymouth and Cornwall – DCFA has contributed to both local and national action on food poverty and will continue to grow in 2017/18 through a new partnership agreement with Fareshare UK.

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As both a global and a local concern there has always been a strong link between food and sustainability and many will identify with the popularity of organic, Fairtrade or locally grown products and their importance to the local economy and a pollution-free environment. Others will make the link between food supplies and the crippling famines that have made headlines all over the world or matters of animal welfare vegan or vegetarian options and the value of good diets. However, in recent years two relatively unexplored food themes have taken precedence – food waste and food poverty. Both bring the message of sustainable food resilience to local audiences.
Sadly the statistics show that food poverty is affecting more and more families and individuals in the South West. In 2014 NHS Figures for Plymouth suggested that 10,000 children in Plymouth were at risk. By 2016 this figure had risen, in response to changes in benefits and tax systems, to over 11,000. It is estimated that it will reach 30,000 by 2020 in Plymouth alone. At the same time the use of Food Banks for emergency supplies has risen, many support organisations are reporting the need for meals for vulnerable individuals and themes such as ‘holiday hunger’ have hit the headlines.
Summed up in the 2014 Feeding Britain Report on Food Poverty ( ), the need to tackle food poverty is inextricably linked to the need to reduce food waste and the millions of tonnes that are needlessly disposed of every year. National projects such as WRAP and initiatives such as ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ have joined an increasing number of Food Banks and surplus food projects (such as Real Junk Food Cafes, Pay as You Feel Cafes and retail led initiatives such as Sainsbury’s ‘Waste Less, Save More’ Discovery Communities – see ) to highlight the need to reduce the amount wasted and its impact on the environment and our pocket.
Even the costs of food waste are unsustainable. On average families in the UK waste £580 a year buying food that is never consumed but, for many, a balanced, nutritional diet is becoming a luxury they can no longer afford. In other circumstances there are some whose lifestyles limit their access to food; with mental or physical health, addiction, isolation or other pressures taking precedence. For others it is simply a lack of cookery or household budgeting skills. Whatever the reason, there are now many who do not enjoy access to good, sustainable food supplies and many who work together to bridge this gap by providing food-related support. DCFA was established in 2010 to provide a solution to the reduction of food waste and the alleviation of local food poverty. Working from three, newly independent, food hubs – in Plymouth, Exeter and Cornwall – and with a team of over 150 volunteers, DCFA intercepts surplus food with the help of over 60 local suppliers including household names such as Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s and Tamar Foods. Some provide weekly – or, even, daily – supplies. Others work with DCFA when they can. In doing so they make supplies of basic foods – bread, milk, fruit and veg, pies and pasties – together with treats such as ice cream, popcorn, fruit juices and chutneys or pickles available for distribution to the 128 community groups registered as partners.
Funded almost entirely by grants and sponsorship and formally registered as a food business, DCFA is currently working with Fareshare UK ( ) to boost the availability of surplus ambient food supplies and to secure the funding needed to maintain its rent, overheads and transport costs.
In this way, surplus food is redistributed across Devon and Cornwall and DCFA now has links with mini-food hubs as far apart as Penzance and Ilfracombe. In Plymouth alone DCFA’s supplies support approximately 6000 individuals a month and the numbers are, sadly, growing as life becomes more stressful and unsustainable for many.

Contact Info

  • Devonport Guildhall, Ker St, Plymouth PL1 4EL

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