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Food waste is not a solution to food poverty

France's new law requiring supermarkets to donate unsold food to charities could accelerate the spread of food banks as an acceptable response to hunger. Instead, we should require supermarkets to pay employees a living wage, which would save the taxpayer money and ensure that people in work can afford the basics.

Last week, the French parliament voted to require supermarkets to donate unsold food to charities or farms for use as animal feed or compost instead. The campaigner behind the law, Arash Derambarsh, wants to convince more countries to follow France’s lead. Stuart McMillan, a Scottish SMP, has already called for Scottish government to adopt similar legislation.

Hannah Laurison, Sustain commented: "We applaud the efforts of many organisations to redistribute surplus food to those in need and welcome legislation that makes sure good food is not sent to landfill. However, surplus food alone is not a sustainable solution to food poverty. We must avoid normalising the idea that charities should take care of feeding poor people. In the US, where food companies are offered significant tax incentives for donating surplus food, food banks have largely replaced the public safety net."

She continued, "To address the root causes of food poverty, we should require supermarkets and other companies to pay a living wage to their employees." 

A recent report from Citizens UK showed that low wages paid by Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys have cost the taxpayer more than £750m in benefits paid to their staff in 2014. New data from the Trussell Trust show that an increasing number of food bank users are in work. The living wage gives people the chance to provide for themselves and their families. 

Join the Sustainable Food Cities call for urgent action on the root causes of food poverty by signing the food poverty declaration.

Published 1 Jun 2015

Food Poverty: Over 5 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. We’re working to change that through people-powered projects and campaigns that tackle the root causes of food poverty and ensure everyone has dignified access to healthy, affordable food.

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