Category: News

Climate Justice Fortnight Community Meal

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Niamos Arts Centre in Hulme to celebrate the end of Climate Justice fortnight on 23.2.20. We fed the troops with food that would have otherwise gone to waste. The menu included onion bajis, lentil dahl and warm fruit compote with yogurt.





Liverpool City Region Green Summit

As usual we have been cooking up a storm in the Alchemic kitchen. Over the past two weeks we have fed at least 425 people, across two events, using surplus food; produce that would have otherwise gone to waste. We take surplus food and either from wholesale or directly from farms, we revalue it then redistribute it. Make it into something delicious and nourishing. That is exactly what we did for the Liverpool City Region Year of the Environment Green Summit earlier this month. We saved a mound of potatoes, a box of corn, the same of cucumbers and much more (read on for exact quantities).

We put together a hearty menu of potato salad with salsa verde, bean houmous with avocado and aubergine, mixed pickled vegetables and harissa spiced pumpkin dahl. This was served with either apple blondies or spent malt granola bars for dessert, which were greatly enjoyed by all including Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram who took to twitter to declare it all ‘delicious’. Neptune Brewery gave us some of their spent malt, which we dried out before adding fruit and a caramel made from surplus pumpkins. Spent malt is a by-product of the brewing process and is one of the largest sources of waste for all breweries. The apples, which were gleaned by a team of volunteers at Speke Hall’s orchard, are ordinarily left to fall on the ground. To accompany the savoury lunch boxes, we served focaccia produced by the fabulous team at Homebaked Anfield. As well as supporting a local social enterprise, which we firmly believe in, the bread was amazing so an all-round success. We whole-heartedly agree with Homebaked Anfield when they say “ours is a fab partnership, supporting each other in many different ways”. We continued the collaborative theme with the Green Guild of Students from the University of Liverpool supporting us with volunteers on the day, and taking all the food residue and Vegware containers to put through their Rocket Composter.


In total we saved; 10 kilos of spent malt, 32 kilos of pumpkin, 40 apples, 12 avocados, 8 kilos carrots, 35 kilos of potatoes, 10 kilos of parsnips, 3 kilos of fresh chillies, 14 aubergines, 12 bunches of fresh herbs, 12 celeriac, 12 cucumbers, 15 corn on the cob and 10 celery heads. The produce that was donated to us that wasn’t included in our menu for the Green Summit is being made into preserves, pickles and ferments to form our online shop offering. Shop here.

The figures on the on-farm food waste mountain

for the first time revealing estimates of the food wasted on UK farms. Including the 2 million tonnes of surplus (usually human-edible food used as animal feed), there is a total of 3.6 million tonnes, more than the food waste and surplus at manufacturing and retail level combined.

Farmers are frustrated

This confirms what Feedback have long been hearing from UK farmers. But it would be a mistake to blame farmers for this waste. Feedback’s Gleaning Network saves leftover food from UK farms for charity, and we regularly speak to farmers who are devastated to have to waste perfectly edible food that they’ve toiled long hours to grow. Why? Feedback’s report Farmers Talk Food Waste found that UK fruit and vegetable farmers were forced to waste 10-16% of their crop due to supermarket and middlemen practices – including rejections of food for being the wrong size and shape, encouraging systemic overproduction by punishing undersupply, low farm-gate prices which sometimes below the cost of harvest, and Unfair Trading Practices like last minute order cancellations. We need to support farmers by reforming these supermarket practices, to help them reduce costs and waste.

The problems of sugar, milk and meat

Some of the more surprising findings of WRAP’s report are the scale of food waste occurring in sectors outside fruit and vegetables. For instance, they find that the highest volumes of food waste by weight occur for sugar beet – 347,000 tonnes or 3.9% of production. Sugar is not only bad for the nation’s health and teeth, but it has hugely negative impacts on soil erosion and uses up more land than the rest of UK vegetable production combined – we’ll be releasing more on this soon through our sugar campaign. The report also finds that the 4th most wasted product is milk and the 6th is poultry. Much of this is as a result of animal diseases and contamination, so this is not necessarily edible to humans. However, given the huge environmental footprint of meat and need to slash UK meat production and consumption to stay within safe limits of climate change, it’s startling to see such large volumes wasted. See our campaign The Cow in the Room for more info.

Producing food which is never eaten is a vast waste of natural resources including land, water and soil at a time of environmental emergency – this presents a huge opportunity to liberate land and resources which are desperately needed for reforestation and growing sustainable food. A report commissioned by the Committee for Climate Change recently found that reducing food waste could save considerable carbon emissions and liberate 482,000 hectares of arable land and 459,000 hectares of grasslands – and their calculations did not include food wasted on farms, which could contribute even more. We now know that planting trees is one of the most important ways we have to prevent a climate crisis – so this liberated land presents great potential.

Up to 5,000,000 tonnes

But WRAP’s figure is still an estimate – mainly based on non-UK data and self-reporting by farmers which is notorious for underreporting food waste. Therefore, this may well be an under-estimate of the levels of waste – the data isn’t good enough to tell yet. WRAP’s report estimates that the reality is probably somewhere in between 1.9 and 5 million tonnes per year – if it was 5 million tonnes, it would be nearly as much edible food as is thrown away by consumers.

Throughout the EU, farm-level food waste is almost completely ignored, assumed to be minimal and unimportant due to a pervasive narrative that this only a problem in the Global South due to lack of storage and infrastructure. Feedback have been campaigning hard to persuade the EU to measure food waste on farms, but the Commission recently made the terrible decision to exclude almost all on-farm food waste from the compulsory food waste measurement EU countries will have to begin in 2020. But due to campaigning, a ray of light is that the Commission has now pledged to release funds for some pilot studies to measure agricultural food waste in more detail.

The reason that UK data is still so shaky is that the government has consistently cut funding for food waste measurement and prevention. WRAP originally estimated that they would have robust data ready by 2018, but with limited funding this deadline has drifted. Now we know the scale of the problem, we need the government to fund detailed measurement of on-farm food waste to go beyond estimates and generate accurate baselines from which to set targeted reduction of on-farm food waste – like for other sectors.

Going backwards

We also call on the government to renew the Groceries Code Adjudicator and extend their remit to protect indirect suppliers like farmers from Unfair Trading Practices like last-minute order cancellations which cause waste. This is particularly important in the face of the current Adjudicator Christine Tacon’s surprising advice that the UK move back towards a system where Unfair Trading Practices are self-regulated by the industry. The Groceries Code Supply of Practice was self-regulated by industry for years before the Adjudicator was introduced, and without an independent regulator with power to punish businesses for non-compliance, supermarkets predictably failed to self-enforce the Code. It is difficult to see why voluntary self-regulation would be any more effective now. The farming industry and NGOs campaigned hard for years to achieve the introduction of a regulator with teeth to fight Unfair Trading Practices, and this gain must not be reversed.

Finally, Feedback calls on supermarkets to relax cosmetic standards on their core product ranges, pay farmers a good price for their produce, stop punishing their suppliers in cases of undersupply, and flexibly market gluts of produce. WRAP’s figures show that a worrying amount of produce is still being wasted, despite the launch of wonky veg ranges – retailers need to use wonky veg ranges to test their consumers’ acceptance of lower cosmetic specs, and then relax cosmetic specs for their core product lines accordingly.

The fight against food waste on farms continues! Want to witness the food waste first hand? Click here to get involved in one of our gleaning days.

Ugly produce and food waste on farms

Recently the argument was made that the link between ugly produce and food waste has been overstated. This was most notably articulated in a much shared interview with Sarah Taber in Vox entitled ‘The ‘myth’ of ugly produce and food waste’. Whilst some of the points made by Taber are well worth the attention of farmers, campaigners and policymakers, there were also some misrepresentations and inaccuracies about food waste that need to be addressed, especially considering a recent WRAP report showed that a shocking  3.6 million tonnes of food is wasted on farms in the UK.

Taber is absolutely right that a well-trained, experienced and skilled farming sector is key to proactively innovating towards lower food losses and preserving gluts. However, the idea that cosmetic standards leading to food waste is a ‘myth’ doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Our research shows that cosmetic standards do play a key role in driving waste on farms and it would be naïve to dismiss this issue. Our food waste hierarchy proposes a ‘best use’ scale clearly showing that food waste isn’t black and white.  There has and always will be a variety of uses for crops that cannot be eaten directly by humans, from processing to animal feed to anaerobic digestion to compost to feed the soil.  Nonetheless, edible food being put to other uses is not its best use in terms of efficiency.

Cosmetic standards causing food waste ain’t no myth

Whilst it would be wonderful if, as Taber says, all on-farm losses were entering ‘wonky veg’ lines or being diverted for processing, we know that a significant proportion of edible farm produce ends up being left in the field to rot or perishes post-harvest before even leaving the farm gate. Feedback has extensively researched food waste on farms in multiple contexts in recent years and we know that cosmetic standards are a consistent cause of losses. In some instances producers can find alternative outlets but this is sometimes an impossibility. Our research on food waste on farms in the UK in 2018 showed that supermarkets’ cosmetic specifications drive overproduction as farmers try to ensure they have enough yield to meet their orders, with the crops that don’t make the grade often not getting sold.

There’s a wealth of evidence to back this up. Research from the University of Edinburgh in 2018 highlighted that over a third of total EU horticultural production is lost for aesthetic reasons. In the US, a study carried out in North Carolina showed that over 50% of vegetables grown by farmers were edible but unmarketable.

Concentration of power

To take a step back, the reason for this is that there is an overwhelming concentration of power at the buyer end of our food system, leaving suppliers having to meet their customer’s stringent cosmetic specifications and carrying all the risk associated with food waste. Within our globalised food system, there are implications for farmers in the south exporting to the global north too. Our research into farm-based food waste in contexts such as Peru and Senegal, also found that producers are at the whim of their buyers. This can lead to, for example, the topping and tailing of beans and associated losses of 30-40% in order to fit supermarket packaging, as we found was the case for French bean growers in Kenya.

We can all recognise Taber’s point that farmers have to do their utmost to reduce food losses on the farm. However, to cast farmers as the agents of failure in the story of on farm food losses is inaccurate and does them a serious disservice. Farmers are among the very last people who would want to see their crops wasted – their living depends upon finding a viable market for their produce. What Taber’s analysis misses is that food losses on farms often occurs due to market dynamics that are entirely out of the hands of growers and, as it stands, this is a unfair distribution of risk that threatens the security of farmer’s livelihoods.

Take, for example, the situation for English apple producers in 2018. The summer drought lead to apple yield forecasts being significantly lower than the eventual crop (thanks to good levels of rain in August, that year ended up being one of the best growers can remember). Yet in the time between the yield forecast and harvest, supermarket pack houses imported high quantities to make up for the anticipated drought-affected UK crop. Storage facilities hit capacity and with apple supply far exceeding demand there was a consequent plummet in prices. The market rate dropped far lower than the cost of production and importantly, in light of Taber’s point about processing, the price crash was reflected in the juice market too.

When the farm gate price of a crop falls below the cost of production, why would a fruit producer pick their crop at a loss? Whilst some initiatives do exist to deal with this problematic situation, such as our very own Gleaning Network or the the concurrent picking program in California, we are still a long way from capturing all edible farm based food losses when prices fall. In these cases, the already wafer fine margin for producers is eroded even further. When low prices are forced on producers by powerful retailers, it’s impossible to expect farmers to pay their staff or themselves a living wage. Herein lies the unjust crux of our food system; cheap food in supermarkets is dependent upon the retail sector driving a hard bargain with already pressed farmers, often overstepping the line by use of unfair trading practices. And yes, this includes strict cosmetic specifications being dealt to farmers who get left with crops they simple cannot sell.

It is these ongoing and well-documented practices on the part of supermarkets that drive overproduction, waste and threaten the livelihoods of small and medium sized producers, more than the ‘wonky veg’ startups Taber takes aim at. A clear negative outcome of the power of retailers is that agricultural workers in the UK (let alone in less well-off places) face low wages and poor employment conditions, whilst the horticulture sector as a whole struggles to retain and recruit staff.

What’s the solution?

If there’s an answer to reducing ‘wonky veg’ then Taber is right that more processing, on farm or nearby, is part of the answer- this is something that Feedback are enabling in Sussex and Kent through our participation in the FLAVOUR project. Though it’s also about ending regulation on cosmetic standards and actors along the food chain changing their expectations of what fruit and veg looks like in the interest of reducing waste. Here it’s worth echoing the words of researchers looking into food losses on farms due to cosmetic standards in Germany and the Netherlands who argued that “market contextual factors such as competition, pricing, production costs, logistics, and especially consumer demands need to change so we can avoid wasting, and provide ugly fruits and vegetables with a viable future”.

Feedback is proud to have been at the forefront of addressing the very real problem of cosmetic standards leading to food waste and supporting initiatives that use ugly surplus in a creative and sustainable way. We’ll continue to do so. Visit Feedback for more info.

Feedback: spreading Gleaning across the globe

In Autumn 2017, Kako Black, an Australian student on a one-year placement at Warwick university, joined Feedback for a six-month volunteering placement. Kako had contacted us before leaving Australia, as she was especially keen to learn more about our various projects and campaigns tackling food waste.

During her time at Feedback, Kako learned about and assisted with many areas of our work; she was particularly interested in our Gleaning Network programme, especially after attending several Gleaning days on farms and orchards.

“Even though I was someone who identified as being passionate about food waste, and concerned about food sustainability, I had never been to a commercial fruit farm before attending a glean with Feedback. I realised that I had been engaging with the issue of food waste from a single perspective (as a consumer) and that there were so many other ways to get involved – including, and importantly, at farm level. Sometimes the scale of the issue feels overwhelming. But unlike many other global issues, food sustainability is something we can all take direct action on. We all eat. We all have the capacity to make significant changes and tangible impact on reducing waste. What Feedback has taught me is that these actions are not the only way to get involved. It is also vital that we expand our perspectives and move away from solely consumer impacts to learn about and change our food system. We are not just food consumers, but food citizens.”

When Kako returned to Australia in the spring of 2018, we very much hoped that she would keep in touch. She was keen to find ways to continue the fight against food waste; we hoped there would be some great local projects she could get involved with.


But Kako went one step further: rather than wait for something to happen, Kako seized the initiative – and set up her own gleaning project, GIVback, to rescue crops in the state of Victoria.

We’re immensely proud of Kako, and inspired to know that Feedback’s work is having a positive impact on the other side of the world.

Love Lane Disco Chop – what a day!

65 people. 150 kilos of fresh fruit and vegetables. Some amazing disco tunes. Great volunteers. A perfect space. Put it together and we have the Alchemic Kitchen Disco Chop. An opportunity to show what could be done with fresh but unwanted fruit and vegetables and to talk to our guests about their role as a food consumer and conscientious citizen.

This was our first public-facing event and we chose the weekend that Storm Hannah hit Liverpool. Torrential rain and wind didn’t put off our guests, they travelled to Love Lane and the hidden space of The Fig and the Wild’s converted railway arch. Made wonderfully welcome by Alison and her family, we set up 4 chopping and making stations for our volunteer chefs to work at. Jo foraged bluebells, wild garlic and cow parsley to bring a touch of spring to the room and created a messy play area for the many younger team members to decorate chefs’ hats and paint pictures. Superchef Michelle from Bay Tree Cookery School CIC set up her giant paella pan to add a bit of theatre to the day.

During the week, we’d been busy collecting unwanted, but still very much edible food from our contacts at local farms and markets. Jo, our Gleaning Co-ordinator, took a gang of volunteers out to a farm on Easter Monday. They gleaned 1.25 tons of beautiful fresh leeks, donating most of them to FareShare but keeping back 10 bags for our event.


  • Leek and Potato Soup – to be delivered later to our friends at the local Salvation Army Hostel
  • Vegetable Spring Rolls – using carrots, peppers, noodles, cabbage, leeks (of course)
  • Vegetable Bhajis – made with leeks (yep), carrots
  • Tomato & Ricotta pizzas – roasted squished tomato sauce, ricotta-ish from short date milk
  • Potato Bravas – new potatoes, wild garlic and a few tomatoes
  • Vegetable Paella –aubergines, peppers, mushrooms, leeks (obvs), courgettes
  • Salads – beetroot, mixed leaves, iceburg, pickled cucumber
  • Chocolate Beetroot Brownies
  • Apple and Blueberry Whey Cakes
  • Plum and apple compote – plums, apples & raspberries

Lucy bagsied the milk and tomatoes to prep for pizza making, and took the blueberries and some of the apples for cake making. Making ricotta-ish cheese and then using the leftover whey for a butter substitute in the cake making. No waste! And so you can try it yourself at home, click here for the Alchemic Kitchen’s Perfect Bhajis recipe. Volunteer Helena grabbed the fresh vacuum packed beetroot and made sinful vegan chocolate brownies for pudding. You’ll find her recipe on our Alchemic Kitchen blog.

Everything else was made at the Disco Chop itself. We were really pleased to welcome Paula from Transforming Choice as a volunteer for kitchen duty. We first met Paula back in February and she joined us at our day out in Manchester back in April. Paula was put in charge of making the leek and potato soup that we wanted to deliver to a local hostel. There were a lot of leeks to clean and chop so Jess from Feedback got stuck into the cleaning, and our first group of guests began tackling the chopping. Disco tunes were blasting and a steady stream of guests began arriving. We created 4 work stations – one for bhaji prep, one for spring roll prep, one for fruit prep and a pizza rolling space.

People chose a space and got prepping. The bar was opened and the gin started flowing. First up, making vegetable spring rolls – Dan proved himself a very dab hand at cooking them and our guests enjoyed them so much, extra wrappers were sent for!

Our veggie bhajis went down well and the pizza making got under way with our younger volunteers being supervised by host Alison as they rolled out dough, dolloped sauce and sprinkled ricotta-ish with abandon. Meanwhile, Michelle got on with the theatre of preparing potato bravas, followed by vegetable paella in her giant pan.

Paula quietly got on with preparing 20 litres of leek and potato soup, which Lucy dropped off to the Salvation Army hostel for Sunday’s supper. Plums and apples were roasted with Chinese five spice and a little brown sugar to make a delicious compote to serve alongside the whey cakes. We discovered it was one of our young guests’ birthday, so the whole room sang him a very happy birthday!

Our friends at Toast Ale had kindly sent us a few bottles to try and we also had our very first Alchemic Kitchen products for sale – Apple Pie Jam and Fruity Apple Chutney, made from 15 kilos of Bramley apples that were deemed too oddly shaped to sell. Tasted great though!

After supper was served, we got on with the clear up. It was a team effort to get the room back to tidiness. Jo took away all the veg and fruit peelings to her compost heaps at Plattfields Park. All cardboard, glass and cans were recycled. Any fresh food we hadn’t used was dropped off to the kitchen at Refugee Asylum Link, who prepare a daily lunch for 100 plus people a day who are seeking asylum in Liverpool. Guests took away doggie bags (well cartons) of paella and cake. Nothing was wasted, which made us all very happy.

Looking forward to the next chop!

Pumpkin and apple gleaning

This time of year always sees a glut of pumpkins and apples. Our chef Keenan joined us for a day of apple gleaning and has some great tips for using up leftover pumpkins. Here is how he got on.


Here at Alchemic Kitchen our current thought is: what do we do with all these apples?

My first day on the team at Alchemic Kitchen was spent at Speke Hall’s orchard, picking the apples that ordinarily go unpicked. Lucy and I went along in the rain and quickly filled three crates with Cox and Bramley’s, me reaching the higher branches and Lucy the lower. I was amazed at how many apples lay on the ground, with more to pick in the trees, that would otherwise go to waste. It was a real eye-opening first day, it is one thing hearing about the Alchemic Kitchen and gleaning projects and another entirely to see the amount of food that is there (literally) for the taking in areas with public access. It is worth noting that Speke Hall are happy for visitors to pick apples in their orchard, so next time you visit why not grab a couple.

With amazing help from the gleaning team and a second visit to Speke Hall we now have an abundance of apples. We have rescued crates upon crates, in all shapes, varieties and sizes. What now?

No doubt, plenty of them are destined to become a key player in Lucy’s brilliant chutneys but there is a limit to how much chutney one person can make. So I have had to come up with some ideas of my own. In keeping with the time of year I have come up with a jam that tastes like cinder toffee apples, a spiced apple cake that’ll stick to your ribs and we are making apple blondies for the Green Summit later this week. This, all from apples that would otherwise rot on the ground where they fell.


Last week we used donated pumpkins to showcase just how much can be done with your Halloween decorations. We visited Eton Park in Prescott for the day to cook, chat and chop with the local community, before dishing out warming pumpkin soup. We talked up the benefits of seed saving and chatted through the recipe for the soup, handing out recipe cards as we went. It was a fantastic day and despite a few sceptics about the merits of eating pumpkin rather than just carving it, the soup went down a storm. In all, we served over one hundred portions, with people coming back for more.

We have just had another truckload of pumpkins donated to us, so follow our social media to see what they are being turned into and if you are interested in the recipes mentioned you can subscribe to our newsletter (no spam, we promise) for more on them.

If you would like to try our creations then look out for the launch of our online shop, where you can subscribe to one off or monthly deliveries of our products. They are delicious and reduce food waste, winner!