BEYOND FOOD CHARITY: How can the food sector help tackle household food insecurity?

Hear from speakers Frank Soodeen (Joseph Rowntree Foundation); Dr Hannah Lambie-Mumford, author of ‘Hungry Britain: the rise of food charity’ and Isabel Bradbury (The Pret Foundation) on the role of major food companies in charitable food assistance projects.

The Food Ethics Council Business Forum is a group of progressive business leaders in food and farming, who meet to discuss the big issues of the day, under the Chatham House Rule. This is one of a series of events open to Business Forum members. For anyone who is not currently a member but is interested in attending, please contact

Chair: Geoff Tansey

Speakers: Our keynote speakers are Frank Soodeen, Deputy Director External Affairs, Joseph Rowntree Foundation; Dr Hannah Lambie-Mumford, author of ‘Hungry Britain: the rise of food charity’ and research fellow at SPERI, University of Sheffield; and Isabel Bradbury, UK Food Donations Coordinator at The Pret Foundation. Geoff Tansey, Member of the Food Ethics Council and previously chair of the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, will chair the meeting.

Charitable food assistance – the provision of food to people in need by charities – has grown significantly in the UK in the last decade. Major food companies are involved in a range of types of charitable food assistance projects – from Kellogg’s supporting breakfast club initiatives to major supermarkets donating food and money and much more. However, the ethical implications of this corporate involvement have not often been tested.

How can food companies balance short-term emergency support to people in need with a longer-term response? And can they play a genuine, lasting role in tackling household food insecurity without changing how their own employees are paid and treated?

Despite some improvements in recent years with the introduction of the National Living Wage, low pay remains an issue in the sector. According to recent research from the Food Foundation[1], 62% of employees in food retail, 83% of waiters and 36% in agriculture and fishing are paid below the real living wage. Pay ratios in the sector are also typically much higher than the 8:1 benchmark (between highest and lowest staff salary) considered to be good practice by the international WageMark Foundation.

The meeting will provide an opportunity to:

  • Ask what is wrong with companies’ business models if there is so much surplus food to give to charity
  • Explore what role (if any) food companies should play in food charity and how they might go beyond a ‘food charity’ approach
  • Consider the benefits and risks of throwing free food at the problem of poverty
  • Understand what the main drivers of household food insecurity are in the UK
  • Explore what an ethical response from food companies to contributing to tackling household food insecurity looks like

[1] Food Foundation (2019), The Broken Plate,


21st May 2019
4:45 - 8:30 pm


The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell
Saint John's Square

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