Redistributing food that would otherwise go to waste saves the UK economy around £51m a year, according to a new study released by charity FareShare.

The Wasted Opportunity Report, carried out by NEF Consulting, evaluated the economic and social value of redistributing surplus food, as well as the cost avoided by the UK public sector as a result of FareShare’s work.

The sum is made up of £6.9m in social value to the beneficiaries themselves and £44m in savings to the state – including the NHS, the criminal justice system, schools and social care.

The charity revealed in its annual report, also published today (22 October), that in the year 2017-2018, it redistributed 17,000 tonnes of in-date, good-to-eat surplus food – enough to create almost 37 million meals.

The report follows the announcement by Michael Gove, secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, of a £15m pilot project that aims to make it as cost-effective for the food industry to redistribute their surplus to charities as it is for them to dispose of it as waste.

FareShare has also announced the launch of its latest campaign, Good Food Does Good, which aims to encourage more businesses to do the right thing with their surplus by demonstrating the difference the food makes to the charities and individuals who receive it.

“We have always known food is a catalyst for good and now we are able to evidence it,” said Lindsay Boswell, chief executive at FareShare.

“We want to be clear – the food we redistribute is in date and good quality, just like the food you’d eat at home. That’s why we’re also launching our Good Food Does Good campaign, to show off our incredible fresh food and to celebrate the amazing businesses that are already giving us their surplus.”