How social supermarkets are filling a gap in austerity Britain

Social supermarkets have emerged in Britain in the past five years as a response to food poverty and food waste. These non-charitable initiatives sell food “surplus” to people on low incomes at heavily discounted prices, and provide social support.In new research, my colleague and I have mapped the growth of social supermarkets and found that while they help support people who are struggling, they do little to challenge the inequalities in the food system.

Despite being the fifth richest country in the world, food poverty in Britain has increased over the last decade. Based on UN estimates, as many as 8.4m people are food insecure in the UK. Meanwhile, there has been intense media and political attention on the amount of food that goes to waste in Britain. It is estimated that around 10m tonnes of food is wasted once it has left the farm gate in the UK every year. This waste is generated at various points in the food supply chain by producers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers. It’s within this wider context of austerity conditions: rising food poverty, rising food prices, welfare reforms and budget cuts – alongside policies to try and redistribute food surplus – that social supermarkets emerged.

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