Redistribution of food for social purposes

City of Brescia, Italy

SDG 2: Zero hungerSDG 10: Reduced inequalitiesSDG 12: Responsible consumption and production
The CAUTO Network is an organisation that brings together a consortium of 5 different social cooperatives from the city of Brescia, Italy. Founded in the early 1990s, the network cooperates together with local businesses and implements a number of projects focused on empowering socially marginalized and vulnerable groups. The food pantry, a large-scale food redistribution scheme from retailers to charities, is one of the most successful activities of the CAUTO network.

In the EU, around 88 million tonnes of food waste are generated annually with associated costs estimated to 143 billion euros. Wasting food is not only an ethical and economic issue but it also depletes the environment of its limited natural resources. By reducing food loss and waste we do not only come one step closer to achieve the SDGs, but it also contributes to the fight against climate change since food waste alone generates about 8 percent of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions. On top of that, it also saves nutritious food for redistribution to those in need, helps eradicate hunger and malnutrition; in the EU alone, 43 million people cannot afford a quality meal every second day. The economic benefits of reducing waste are evident as it saves money for farmers, companies and households.61 Challenges of the CAUTO project include difficulties in establishing a constant flow of food donations since the amount of waste differs. Moreover, collaborating with retailers has been a challenge as their priorities vary. At the moment, only 5 percent of discarded food is recovered.

Good practices and solutions

In 1993, CAUTO started to procure food for social purposes from wholesale fruit and vegetable markets in the city of Brescia. Since then the activities have increased exponentially and the CAUTO network is today partnering with a local network of food companies, canteens, hypermarkets and supermarkets who donate unsold goods, no longer tradable but still edible and safe. The selected food is donated to a network of about 200 local charities. The beneficiaries are thousands of people in need. The food unsuitable for people is donated to local farmers and used for animal nutrition. For retailers, the redistribution scheme is a great way of reducing disposal costs for mixed and organic waste.

Outcomes & opportunities

CAUTO successfully extend the life cycle of food by reducing waste, repurposing it and making it into food donations or animal fodder. It is economically beneficial for the supermarkets who enjoy a decrease in disposal costs and for the charities who depend on food donations. Annually CAUTO redistributes 3 000 tons of food waste.

Related SDG practices


Photo: © Aneta Pawlik/Unsplash

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Project: Circular Baltic 2030