Best Before Project is a not-for-profit organisation, founded by Voytek Stando in 2011, that shares the message: food past its best before date is still good to consume. The organisation, based in London, has about 40 volunteers and provide services to around 3,000 people weekly.

An Interview with a director of Best Before Project – Davide Biasco.

Can you explain what Best Before Project does and what its aims are?

Best before project was born as an organisation that educates people about the labelling on food products, in an attempt to reduce food waste. The best before date is often confused with the use by date or expiry date. Our main goal is to eradicate this misunderstanding. Our secondary goal is to distribute the excess food to people who are in need.

Do you collaborate with any other organisations and companies in order to achieve your goal?

Yes actually, we do collaborate with other organisations. Best Before Project speaks with supermarkets and wholesalers and anyone who distributes food and explains to them that they can sell food past its best before date. We encourage them to redistribute any unsold food through organisations such as ourselves. We have been collaborating with churches, the Red Cross and other organisations that feed the homeless and support families in need. We also collaborate with other companies with aims similar to ours, like Fareshare, City Harvest and Planet Zheros and other organisations that want to solve food waste problems.

How long have you been working with BBP?

I started working with BBP in 2012. This was when I arrived in London. The organisation was started the year before. I was involved quite intensively for a couple of years at the beginning and I had been a director for a couple of years (2013-2015), then I stepped aside as I was focusing on other things. I recently became more involved and became a director again to bring my expertise to further our cause.

What sort of work do you do? You mentioned education and redistributing food. What are these processes like?

We collect surplus food on a daily basis from some of the main supermarkets, such as TESCO, Waitrose, ASDA, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, and distribute it locally. Other charities also provide us with food for redistribution.

From the education point of view, we have had several approaches. We have done many events: meeting and telling people what we are doing. Then we have had structured educational campaigns, both on social media and locally. For example we had a campaign in Waltham Forest: shop shelves that had food past its best before dates being sold at lower prices; and advertisements in buses.

Do you think there are other additional ways that supermarkets can reduce food waste and its impact on the environment?

Changing their policies on how their food is shown, priced and discarded. For example in France, there are some very strict regulations on food waste that have been implemented and enforced.

Do you think it is the government’s responsibility to put these regulations in place and enforce them or is it up to the supermarkets?

Ethically, the supermarkets have their part to play but from a purely business perspective you cannot blame the supermarkets due to competition and how the market works. The issue is, there are people that are hungry; so the government should have stronger policies to eradicate food poverty.

What have been the effects of COVID-19 on BBP’s work?

The virus has been partially impactful as we need to follow the rules and be careful. We have to restrict the number of people in the warehouses. There have been a lot more requests for help during this crisis due to an increase in economic hardship.

Do you think COVID-19 has impacted the amount of food being wasted on a whole?

Yes, definitely. The first lockdown was sudden, and the closure of hospitality businesses and restaurants meant that there was a lot of surplus food, needing redistribution. Also, stockpiling and panic buying would have increased the amount of food wasted by consumers.

What do you think readers at home can do to reduce food waste?

This is something I have grown up with: never waste food and always use everything you have. I think it is important for one to understand how much you are buying, preparing and cooking so they can have an analysis and a little optimisation of their consumption of food.

A message from Davide: Spend a little time thinking of how we can save even the smallest bit of energy or resources to help the environment.