As the country’s leading supermarkets pledge to reduce the amount of waste food committed to landfill, a Tyneside charity is urging them to help with an initiative to promote a healthier diet for the homeless.

Formed in Newcastle in 1985 the People’s Kitchen has transformed thousands of disadvantaged people’s lives by providing them with friendship and food and filling a gap in the evenings when homeless people are at their most vulnerable. Now, the charity’s Chairman, Bob Eldridge is calling upon the supermarkets to demonstrate that they have a social conscience and help the homeless and vulnerable eat more healthier instead of throwing good food away.

The charity has always encouraged healthy eating amongst the 650 people who use its services every week by ensuring that fresh vegetables are on the menu. To help facilitate this, the People’s Kitchen allotment was set up on Nun’s Moor so that kitchen volunteers and the charity’s friends could work together to produce a sustainable supplement to the thousands of tinned food donated annually.

During the last growing season alone, 65lb of rhubarb, 175lb of potatoes, 40lb of cabbage, 11lb of turnip and 62lb of strawberry were among the variety of crops cultivated. This year, there is hope for even better results. Already, cabbage, courgette, beetroot, lettuce and cucumber seeds have been sown in trays within the two greenhouses and onions have been planted in one of several outdoor growing areas. But it’s still not enough to meet demand for the 40,000 meals cooked each year despite an increase in production.

At the same time as the People’s Kitchen introduces a healthier diet, seven major supermarkets have agreed to reveal how much food they waste each year and have pledged to reduce the amount of food sent to landfill from 6 percent to 1 percent by 2020.

It is this surplus amount that Mr. Eldridge believes can be targeted towards organisations such as The People’s Kitchen. “Supermarkets have a major problem with waste food. For instance, around 40% of all apples are thrown away and a staggering two thirds of all salads are simply binned. These two items alone could go a long way towards giving our friends two of their five a day allowance.

“I understand that there are about 15 million tons of food wasted each year. One supermarket alone has admitted to landfilling almost 30,000 tons of edible food in just six months.

“We waste nothing at the People’s Kitchen. Every item of food is used in our menus, if we wasted any it wouldn’t be fair on the generosity of the kind-hearted people who donated it to us. “

The People’s Kitchen relies on food and money donations to help them continue their work. No funding is received by the charity and their helpers are all unpaid volunteers.

“We already receive tremendous support from some household high street names who donate unbranded surplus food to us and for that we are truly grateful, but if we are to have a more healthy menu for our friends, more has to be done.

“I’d like to liaise with the big supermarkets, share our experiences and help them to do the right thing for everyone concerned. This could be a life changing change in policy for homeless people all across the UK, ” said Mr. Eldridge.

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