Excess food waste and a rise in Covid-19 cases – was it worth it?
2020 will go down as the year we all stayed home, clapped for the NHS, and then rushed back out again to spend our money on dinner with friends and family we couldn’t see for months.
But according to one company, it looks like Eat Out To Help Out been a disaster – in more ways than one.
But food waste collection experts BusinessWaste.co.uk say that the government scheme has been a complete fail, due to the rising R Number and a huge rise in food waste the scheme created.
“Food waste went through the roof during the scheme, people over-ordered on discounted food meaning platefuls were being chucked in the bin,” says company spokesman Mark Hall.
“It should be a crime to throw away perfectly good food, especially when we had empty shelves in our supermarkets and a rise in food bank use during the pandemic.”
No one coming in = food in the bin
The Eat Out To Help Out (EOTHO) scheme was used to discount over 100 million deals during August, but as BusinessWaste.co.uk points out, it doesn’t mean 100 million people went out for dinner.
“It’s more likely that people are ordering more food than they can eat because it’s discounted,” says spokesman Mark Hall.
“It’s the old psychological pull of buying things because they’re on offer, which ultimately means more food going to waste because customers have eyes bigger than their bellies.”
This was true for Ellie from Norwich who used the scheme to try new dishes she wasn’t sure she would like, “I’ve always been curious about some of the more adventurous dishes, but at half price I can afford to order them and not eat it if I don’t like it and order myself something else.”
But not everyone was happy to venture out to use the government scheme in August.
People were reluctant to go out again after months of strict lockdown measures, fearing that venturing into the outside world would put their family’s health at risk.
Mental health charity Anxiety UK have dubbed this as ‘Post-lockdown anxiety’, and reported that in June 2020, more than 60% of Britons felt uncomfortable about the idea of returning to bars and restaurants as they began to reopen.
But despite this, BusinessWaste.co.uk have found that many businesses restocked ready for a surge of customers that never came, so the surplus of food ended up chucked in the bin.
Hall: “Hospitality businesses were promised that customer levels would be as good as pre-lockdown due to the EOTHO scheme, but quickly found this wasn’t the case.
“If anything, it’s cost these businesses more in waste. Complete fail.”
Catching Covid instead of a bargain
If the amount of wasted food wasn’t enough of a fail, the government have now admitted that the EOTHO scheme may have actually increased the number of Covid-19 cases in the UK.
Boris Johnson has admitted that new restrictions to control the virus were being bought in to ‘counteract’ any damage that the scheme may have caused, as people from multiple households ventured out to use the scheme together.
Public Health England have also reported that between 10th August and 20th September, eating out was the most commonly reported activity in the days prior to those who have tested positive for the virus.
And to add insult to injury, recent financial reports are finding that the government scheme didn’t boost the economy as much as they had hoped, with spending levels not rising to what they were before the pandemic began.
Hall: “I think it is probably fair to say that whole scheme was a massive fail, and that it appears that nobody actually benefited from it.
“All going out for a cheeky discounted dinner with your mates in August has done is put more food in the bin, and put you at risk of catching the virus.”
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