Archbishop Justin Welby
Welby backed a report from a cross-party group of MPs to make changes to the UK's food industryReuters

UK supermarkets, including Asda and Saisbury's, have made steps to meet a challenge issued by MPs and the Church of England to help tackle food poverty.

The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK, which is backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, warned that the nation's food industry wastes 4.3 million tonnes of food every year.

In addition, the report found that currently just 2% of the edible waste is diverted to charities.

Asda, in reaction to the report, has become the first British retailer to waive their suppliers' delivery fees for surplus food given to FareShare – a charity that redistributes food surplus from supermarkets to more than 1,700 charities and community projects.

"It's unacceptable that anyone is experiencing food poverty in this country," said Barry Williams, chief merchandising officer for food at Asda.

"We're therefore immensely proud that through our FareShare initiative Asda has so far managed to provide over two million meals for people who are in dire need.

"But, we recognise there's still more for us to do, and by creating a way for manufacturers to send their food waste into our network; we can help FareShare supply up to six million more meals.

"It's important that we're not fighting this battle on our own and we urge other retailers to follow our lead and help make food poverty in the UK a thing of the past."

Elsewhere, the Co-operative has committed itself to working with Feeding Britain – the group launched from the report – and Sainsbury's is setting up a new summit with its suppliers to offer more fresh surplus fruit and vegetables to FareShare.

Morrison's is setting out plans to expand its partnership with FoodCycle – a charity that combines volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen – during 2015 to cover more local areas.

Waitrose is now encouraging all of its branches to donate surplus food to charities in the local community and Tesco has pledge to continue its National Food Collection, proceeds of which go to the Trussell Trust and FareShare.

The actions come after the Trussell Trust reported that it has seen the number of its food banks rocket from 40,898 outlets in 2009/10 to 913,138 in 2013/2014.

"We all know about the rise in food banks and the number of people turning to them in times of crisis over the last few years," Welby said.

"It's how shocking it is to find this happening here. I've seen much worse. But it's finally here – it's in the wrong place. We don't do that in this country and we need to stop.

"There's been a grassroots response to the problems that have opened our eyes to the problems themselves."

The Feeding Britain report also said that the government should deliver benefits within five working days to help tackle food poverty and decrease the number of people relying on food banks as well as recommending that the Department for Work and Pensions introduce a "yellow card" system, where claimants are warned of possible sanctions.

"This report is a serious contribution to an important debate, and recognises that the reasons behind demands for emergency food assistance are complex and frequently overlapping," a Cabinet Office spokesperson said.

"As a country we have enough food to go around, and we agree that it is wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste. There is a moral argument as well as a sustainability one to ensure we make the best use of resources.

"While this report outlines important areas for consideration, we should remember that this country has been through the deepest recession in living memory, and sticking to this Government's long-term economic plan is the best way to improve living standards."

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