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The overlooked role of food banks in slashing emissions

Food banks are helping to tackle hunger and prevent emissions equivalent to the annual carbon output of 2.2 million cars, a new report says.

Food banks operating in 57 countries are playing a key role in tackling food waste and are helping to mitigate an estimated 10.54 billion kg of CO2 emission a year — equivalent to the output from nearly 2.2 million passenger vehicles.

That is the conclusion of a new report from the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), "Waste Not, Want Not — Toward Zero Hunger: Food Banks — A Green Solution to Hunger" (PDF), which highlights how the practice of donating food to households that are in need sector is supporting the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report found that the food bank networks of GFN, the European Food Banks Federation (FEBA) and Feeding America serve 62.5 million people and prevent about 2.68 million metric tons of safe, edible surplus food being wasted.

The study was released on the first day of the Food Bank Leadership Institute (FBLI), a three-day conference in London this week that aims to help food bank operators share best practices in hunger relief and environmental sustainability.

"The 'Waste Not, Want Not' report highlights the large-scale social and environmental impact of food banks," said Lisa Moon, GFN president and CEO. "The food bank model is uniquely positioned to address both the paradox of global hunger and food waste. This community-based approach must be considered a key solution in the global fight against hunger."

The group will call on food producers, retailers and governments to adopt simplified label recommendations, arguing that an estimated 20 percent of safe, edible food is wasted over confusion created by "best by," "best before," "use by"and "sell by" dates on packages.

The keynote at the conference will be delivered by Tesco CEO Dave Lewis, who said businesses had a key role to play in both tackling food waste and supporting food banks.

"Globally, more that 800 million people are going hungry whilst a third of all food never gets eaten," he said. "At Tesco, we're committed to ensuring no good food goes to waste and we're now donating over 300,000 meals of surplus food to over 7,000 charities and community groups each week working in partnership with FareShare.

"But we know there is more we can do — food banks play a crucial role in tackling global hunger and reducing food waste and today's Food Bank Leadership Institute is a great opportunity for food banks, retailers and other involved stakeholders to come together to share their experiences so we can collectively learn and maximize our impact."

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