Back on the 11th February 6 MPs set out an Early Day Motion (#EDM1497) which would improve matters in many parts of the UK. It would be good for all MPs to sign it. One of the FareShare schemes in the UK is based in Brighton & Hove and covers large parts of Sussex and into Surrey so there are many MPs in that area who we could ask to sign it. My personal interest in this is that back in the late 1990’s I was made aware of the amount of food waste that was taking place in retail settings in our town and one retail manager told me of the challenges he had of trying to prevent the food from getting dumped. This was partly because of the anger of his co-workers that the food was getting wasted, and partly because of the attempts by people to recover the food from the waste locations. I was also aware of the number of people being supported by charities with food and the charities. Sadly neither the retailer nor the charities had the resources to collect food when it became available and distribute it appropriately. After several years of research and discussions with a charity called Crisis based in London, I was able with a friend of mine Michael McNally and as part of our Church to set up the FareShare that now operates from Brighton. We were granted a significant sum from Crisis to set the scheme up and in the first year we could not obtain a local storage space so we set it up in Burgess Hill in 2002. A year later we were able to move into Brighton in the location where FareShare is still located in Moulsecoomb. In the first year Michael distributed 30 tonnes of food to around 15 charities in Brighton and Hove. The FareShare in Sussex now distributes over 600 tonnes of food each year to many more charities over a much wider area. The project continues to grow and the days when Michael was running it with a bit of support from me has benefited from a number of other people including Nathan Au who took over from Michael as the Manager after the first few years. The Sussex FareShare website is here.
So the #EDM is not perfect. Its initial statement was
That this House recognises the valuable work of FareShare, the UK’s biggest charity fighting hunger and food waste, in providing two million meals per week to people in need during the covid-19 pandemic; acknowledges that it is deeply regrettable that two million tonnes of food goes to waste in the UK every year, as well as noting that food waste has a significant negative environmental impact, which can be mitigated by FareShare’s work with British farmers and the food industry to divert waste food to people’s plates through their Surplus With Purpose scheme; and encourages the Government to continue to support FareShare in that endeavour.
The first six signatures were from Neil Parish (Conservative) who authored this element along with Mike Penning and Gordon Henderson (both Conservative), Paula Barker and John McDonnell (both Labour) and Jonathan Edwards (Independent). Since that point on 11th February there have been merely 15 more signatures which includes Rosie Duffield from Kent, albeit in Canterbury which is some distance from the places that the Sussex FareShare gets to but her constituency benefits from the Kent FareShare based in Ashford. Tragically two MPs actually signed the EDM at some stage and then withdrew. They are Andrew Selous (Conservative) and also Wera Hobhouse (Labour). The reason that Wera withdrew and possibly Andrew for the same reason was that the initial text implies that only FareShare is involved and indeed the text implies that FareShare makes the meals which is clearly not correct as most of the food is transferred to charities that carry out that role. So on the 12th March Wera and Mohammed Yasin (Labour) submitted this additional element as an amendment which makes a great deal of sense
“; and furthermore, this House recognises the valuable work of other organisations in the surplus food redistribution sector and acknowledges the benefits of an agile and diverse network, which is able to receive surplus food in the UK in a collaborative manner, and to ensure that surplus food reaches more end beneficiaries until such time that food poverty levels are reduced.“
So along for the value of asking Andrew Selous to re-sign it would be fantastic if all of the 16 Sussex MPs and many other MPs could sign this EDM and get more support from the Government for these charities at both the infrastructure level such as FareShare and the distribution level such as Foodbanks and Homelessness and Feeding Charities.
Two of the MPs I would be very keen to get to sign this would be Caroline Lucas who has visited FareShare on many occasions and Lloyd Russell-Moyle whose constituency includes the premises for our FareShare. Other MPs would be in locations where the distribution from FareShare is significant and so that would include Crawley (Henry Smith), Eastbourne (Caroline Ansell) and Hastings (Sally-Ann Hart).