Krissy Polo-Tolley is our Sustainability Advisor (Waste and Food Surplus) and oversees our food redistribution activities. She talks about why this work is so important to her, both on a professional and personal level
What attracted you to this role?
When I started working at Greencore, I saw there was a goal to halve food waste by 2030 and I thought, ‘I want to be involved in that’. When I was studying for my master’s degree in sustainability, I got involved in a project to try and understand why people throw away food. I was so interested in the behaviour behind this.
What did you learn?
We came to find that it’s mostly younger people who throw away food. Older people who have lived through different experiences, for example, war – are far more aware of not wasting food, whereas younger people don’t always know what to do with leftover food if they have cooked too much.
How are you applying this knowledge at Greencore?
Most of our food donations come from our manufacturing facilities and distribution centres, but we realised that we could do more by including our distribution depots and warehouses too. We discovered they have surplus product, like sandwiches, which was assumed to be food waste. But with a few days left before the expiry date on it, it’s not food waste, it’s food surplus. It is really important that our people understand that so we help them identify what surplus food is, how it can be redistributed, and how to connect with potential charitable redistribution partners to ensure the surplus goes to feed people in need.
What are the business benefits of doing this?
The main benefit is an ethical one – we are helping to feed people in need. By doing this, we are also not having to pay to dispose of this food. Our ultimate aim is to ensure that any food fit for human consumption helps feed people in need, rather than go to waste.
You seem personally very invested in this project. Why is that?
I’m from Peru in South America and we have a culture of not wasting anything. I have travelled to the most deprived areas of my own country and I’ve seen hunger. But I’ve also seen it here too, despite the UK being the sixth richest country in the world. It’s different to the poverty in Peru, but it’s there.
What’s your take away message for others?
Try to understand that there are people in need. Throwing away a sandwich is throwing away a meal. So please think twice about what you consider as food waste. Within Greencore there is something we can do at work, but also in our homes, to spread this message. Think about the effort that has been put into making the food you eat and bringing it to your table. If you’ve bought too much, take it to your local food bank. If you’ve made too much, freeze it for next week. Most of us have never experienced hunger, but there will be someone out there who is experiencing it and would be thankful.