Social supermarkets shopping basket

Every year in the UK, we chuck out enough food to fill the Royal Albert Hall four times over. Yet at the same time, 8 million people are struggling to put food on the table.

This week on Friday Night Feast (Fridays, 8pm, Channel 4), Jamie and Jimmy look at supermarkets with a difference. These so-called social supermarkets tackle two challenges in one go: by saving surplus food from the bin, they also help people feed themselves and their families for less.

Why are we chucking food?

There are many reasons why food becomes waste – and it’s not just because it’s passed its date. For instance, supermarkets might discard food if it’s bigger or smaller than average, if the labelling is faulty, or if the packaging has been printed with a promotion that is no longer running.

And this applies to all types of food. As Jamie and Jimmy discover in the show, anything from sirloin steak and artisan cheese to muesli might be discarded if it can’t be sold on the supermarket shelf.

What do social supermarkets do?

Places such as Community Shop take delivery of this unwanted food and sell it on at heavily discounted prices. Community Shop has a membership system, which allows people who receive means-tested benefits to shop at the store for one year – giving them a short-term boost to help them get back on track.

As well as heavily discounted food items, this social supermarket also offers cooking classes to help members make the most of what they buy. Classes cover simple everyday recipes, and how to turn leftovers into delicious dishes to feed a family. The sense of community is also an important element of what social supermarkets offer.

So what’s next?

It’s estimated that there’s more than 270,000 tonnes of surplus food in the UK, and enterprises such as Community Shop are currently using just 15 per cent of that. So, while they’ve already helped to provide over 3 million meals, there’s still so much more social supermarkets can do.

Plus, with added services such as CV advice, social supermarkets could become a vital part of helping people get back on their feet. In the first six months of operating, Community Shop saw 67 per cent of its members who are eligible for work back in employment. Fantastic!

Catch this week’s episode of Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast on Friday at 8pm on Channel 4.