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‘Tesco won’t provide a little bit of help’ says food bank
Buy this photo » Food bank co-director Robin Aitken last year with Tesco staff collecting unwanted bread from the Cowley store after the chain announced it was providing supplies. Pictures: OX51853 David Fleming
TESCO has been accused of “paying lip service” to reusing stock after a food bank said donations from the supermarket had dwindled.
Oxford Foodbank has stopped collecting surplus food from the Cowley Retail Park after donations fell to “virtually nothing”.
Founder Robin Aitken said Tesco “can’t or won’t make the effort” – but Tesco said it does not have enough to give away.
It comes as the chain this week announced it generated 30,000 tonnes of waste from January to June nationally and pledged to cut back and reduce offers that may lead to more food being thrown away. When the Oxford scheme was launched in May last year, dairy manager Amy Jenner said there was “so much perfectly good food going to waste”. She told the Oxford Mail: “It feels great to able to give something back to community.”
The deal was to provide 100 meals a day for people in need across Oxford. But Mr Aitken – who founded the charity in 2009 to distribute food to charities – said: “They rarely have anything for us now. We started last year, with the company getting public relations benefits from it, but within a few weeks the amounts tailed off to virtually nothing.”
He added: “Large companies like Tesco pay lip service to recycling but when it comes to it they either can’t or won’t make the effort.”
The food bank first collected three to four trolley-fulls but quit two weeks ago after drivers came back empty handed.
He said the Botley-based charity gets good amounts of food from Aldi, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
It has more than 100 volunteers and gives more than 1,000 meals a day – three tonnes a week – to charities like Homeless Pathways and community centres including Rose Hill and Barton.
He also criticised “bureaucratic” Marks & Spencer, which insisted on inspecting kitchens ahead of any deal. He said: “It is needlessly complicated and isn’t necessary in the small scale voluntary sector where we operate.”
Tesco said surplus food which could be given to the food bank was reduced to clear, and on most occasions would be sold by the time the store closed, leaving little to hand over to the bank.
Spokeswoman Christina Goulding said: “At store level we generate very little waste as our store ordering system helps us to accurately predict the amount of food we need and any surplus that is generated is reduced to clear.”
She said: “We are proud to have supported the Oxford Foodbank for over a year and we are speaking with the organisation to see how we can continue to work together.”
Sarah Hartland, spokeswoman for M&S, said: “Our food donation policies and procedures are designed to ensure stores can make donations whilst also doing so in a manner that is safe for recipients.”
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