Food waste and hunger in the UK

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of good food is wasted by the UK food industry every year. At the same time, millions of people are struggling to afford to eat. Our work addresses these two issues by redistributing food industry surplus, which would otherwise go to waste, to the people who need it most. Find facts and figures on food waste and hunger in the UK below.

7 million people in the UK are struggling to afford to eat

This represents 1 in 10 of the UK’s population.

Hunger in the UK

2m tonnes of food wasted across the food industry each year is good-to-eat when it’s discarded.

Meanwhile, 7m people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat (5m adults and 2m children). That’s up by 2m as a result of the pandemic, (according to government figures and the Food Foundation.

That 2m tonnes of good-to-eat wasted food would make the equivalent of 1.3bn meals – enough to feed everyone in food poverty for half the year (more than 180 meals each).

3.6 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry every year in the UK

Food waste in the food industry

By “food industry” we mean all businesses involved in the supply of food. It includes everyone from farmers and growers to manufacturers and processors to wholesalers, retailers and food service companies.

Figures from WRAP, Food waste in primary production in the UK, 2019

Over 2 million tonnes of the food that goes to waste each year is still edible

That’s enough for 1.3 billion meals

Figures from WRAP, Food waste in primary production in the UK, 2019

Surplus food in the supply chain

We call food that isn’t going to be sold, but which is still edible, surplus food. Food becomes surplus for simple reasons such as over-production, labelling errors or short shelf-life. Surplus food occurs everywhere in the supply chain from field through to fork. Here’s a breakdown of where it occurs and how much:

  • Farms: 2,000,000 tonnes
  • Processing and manufacturing: 52,000-160,000 tonnes
  • Wholesale and distribution: 80,000-120,000 tonnes
  • Retail: 47,000-110,000 tonnes

Figures from WRAP, Food waste in primary production in the UK, 2019

The waste hierarchy calls for food to feed people first

It is a legal requirement for UK companies to operate according to these principles

Feed people first

The waste hierarchy sets out five steps for dealing with waste, ranked according to their environmental impact. It states that surplus food should be used to feed people first before it is sent to animal feed or energy.