Knowledge for better food systems

Can the redistribution of surplus food really improve food security?

This paper published  in Journal of Environmental Planning and Management discusses the idea of  using surplus food redistribution to reduce food waste. It concludes that unless a distinction is drawn between genuine waste to be recovered and surplus to be redistributed for community benefit, surplus food as a resource is unlikely to be fully utilised.

This paper published  in Journal of Environmental Planning and Management discusses the idea of  using surplus food redistribution to reduce food waste. It concludes that unless a distinction is drawn between genuine waste to be recovered and surplus to be redistributed for community benefit, surplus food as a resource is unlikely to be fully utilised.

The author, Dr. Jane Midgley from Newcastle University, says: 'surplus food redistribution is often presented as a solution to food insecurity and food waste. But my research suggests that without greater guidance from government this will continue as an ad-hoc arrangement between the food industry and charities which may not adequately address either problem.

The paper suggests that practices of distribution are never independent of their original market quality and that maintaining such quality within surplus food distribution processes is difficult. Such challenges have to be overcome through agreements between charities and the food industry.

A greater understanding of the values and qualities associated with surplus food and how the tensions surrounding these are managed is essential according to the researchers if surplus food is to be used as a potential resource to improve food security and other current food system pressures.

Abstract

Surplus food redistribution has been promoted as a way of reducing food waste and food poverty. Informed by an exploratory qualitative case study of third sector actors in north east England, this paper explores the logics of surplus food redistribution. The framings and qualities (logics) ascribed to surplus foods as they flow through the food chain are examined, following an economy of qualities approach. Existing literature constructs surplus food and those involved in its utilisation as beyond market mechanisms and relations. This is challenged by the research that suggests the practices are never independent of their market attachment and reflect a continuum of food system flows and relationships, concerning the management of economic, environmental and social qualities and relations. The paper concludes that unless a distinction is drawn between genuine waste to be recovered and surplus to be redistributed for community benefit, surplus food as a resource is unlikely to be fully utilised.

Citation

Midgley J L, The logics of surplus food redistribution. 2013. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.

For more information, and to read the full paper visit the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management here.

You can also read more about Food Security and Food waste on our website.

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