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Waste food: What do you do with 86 tonnes of celeriac?

By Howard Mustoe

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food is thrown away in the UK every year. With coronavirus lockdowns closing restaurants, cafes and pubs, there is even more food potentially going to waste. But charities and apps are stepping in.

When wholesaler Philip de Ternant had thousands of pounds worth of food going to waste, charities and buyers queued up to take it off him.

Six thousand pounds worth of milk was among the items at Creed Foodservice that would have to be dumped if a customer couldn't be found for it after schools suddenly closed.

Fortunately, an appeal from footballer Marcus Rashford helped publicise the potential waste, and a home was found for the milk.

"We were just pleased to move it through and not have to dispose of it," Mr de Ternant says.

UK households produce around 70% of the UK's 9.5 million tonnes of food waste every year, according to the charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), which is this week launching its campaign Food Waste Action Week to help tackle climate change.

Households are followed by manufacturers, hospitality and foodservice companies. If it isn't eaten, food waste ends up as pet food, compost, fuel for energy production, or in landfill.

The problem has also been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, with wholesalers being affected by the closure of hospitality businesses.

"Sixty-five per cent of business has disappeared. Pubs, restaurants, hotels. All we have left is care homes and schools feeding the vulnerable," says Mr de Ternant.

But progress is being made as firms with excess produce publicise what they have and a network of volunteers search out those in need.

When Simon Scott, general manager at DGM Growers in Kent, had three lorry loads of the root vegetable celeriac spare, he knew he could send them to charity Fareshare, which aims to connect potentially wasted food with 11,000 charities and community groups around the UK.

His company mainly supplies vegetables like celeriac, chicory and fennel to supermarkets, and a move to home cooking has helped his business.

But the lockdown meant he was left with large celeriac usually reserved for restaurants and caterers as they were closed down. He has donated 86 tonnes since October.

"It's provided a significant amount of meals for those in need at this really difficult time. And I think that's really the focus for us, to turn this problem into a positive solution," he says.

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