Marks and Spencer has been working with a charity to make extra meals and deliver them to those in need, it has revealed.
The scheme uses spare capacity in the M&S supply chain to produce additional meals, rather than donating leftovers from stores.
The company is working with 2 Sisters Food Group, one of the UK’s biggest food manufacturers, to provide the charity FareShare with food of the same quality that is bought from its supermarket shelves to distribute.
Writing in The Telegraph, Alex Freudmann, the managing director of food at M&S, said the retailer has been redistributing surplus food for over seven years.
However, he said this did not go far enough: “This is a good thing, of course, but I couldn’t help but think that with our deep supplier partnerships and exclusive manufacturing agreements as an own-brand retailer, there had to be a way to use capacity in our supply chain better to get fresh products direct to those who need it.
“So, we’ve been quietly working with FareShare, and 2 Sisters Food Group, to provide FareShare with the same healthy, nutritious food quality that M&S customers see on our shelves.
“In an industry first, we’re donating over one million meals – all with our Eat Well seal of health approval – and exactly the same quality and freshness as you would find in our stores.
"Flipping our mindset from using food that is too good to waste – laudable as that is – to innovating to use capacity that is too good to waste. So everyone can have access to a fresh, hot and healthy meal.”
He added: “It’s been humbling to see how my colleagues and supplier partners have come together and innovated at pace with such a strong sense of purpose – and this donation is just the start. In the coming months we will be expanding this work and I hope that if Michael Marks could see what we’re doing, he’d approve.”
Marks founded the company in 1884 at Kirkgate Market in Leeds.
Mr Freudmann made the comments amid mounting concern of the impact of the cost of living crisis on food poverty.
In March the Department for Work and Pensions published its first figures on food bank use. They showed that around 3 per cent of UK families – equating to at least 2.1 million people – used a food bank in the year to March 2022.
Furthermore, between April 2022 and March 2023, almost three million emergency food parcels were distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust charity’s network – the most parcels ever distributed in a year.
For the same period, the charity also found that the number of people who used a food bank for the first time was 760,000.
Often supermarkets, including M&S, donate their unsold, end-of-life produce to charities. However, that food has already been transported multiple times, refrigerated for weeks, handled by staff and has a short shelf life.
The new M&S scheme works by using the spare capacity, raw ingredients, packaging labour and even fuel and lorries in the manufacturing part of the process and to make extra food at the very top of the supply chain, when it is most efficient.
Marks and Spencer and the 2 Sisters Food Group have started by making one million meals in this way ahead of Christmas, to be distributed via community projects such as helping people get back into work, or at schools.