Jasmine Birtles Campaigns to Legalise Freeganism


TV money expert and founder of self-help consumer website MoneyMagpie.com, Jasmine Birtles, has started a campaign to legalise Freeganism in order to alleviate food poverty and combat waste.

At a time when food prices are sky-rocketing and vulnerable families are having to choose between heating and eating, it is shocking to find from the Government’s Waste and Resources Action Programme, that the UK throws out around 15 million tons of food every year. Across Europe it’s around 89 million tons. Most of this is from commercial outlets.

The reality of food poverty in the UK has never been more obvious and Birtles is calling on the Government to create emergency legislation to enable supermarkets, and other food outlets, to give away food that is past its sell-by date, but still perfectly edible, without fear of law suits.

“I know that many supermarkets, cafes and restaurants already give unwanted food to charities but there is still a lot that is dumped into heavily-guarded bins,” she says. “Food outlets are afraid of being sued in case someone has a bad reaction to something they have picked out of the bins, so we need legislation to help them get around that and allow enterprising locals to get free food.”

Now really is the time to address this urgently, says Birtles. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports that in the UK alone, 5 million people lived in food poverty between 2019 – 2020, according to the government’s latest Family Resources Survey. In 2020, this was 8% of the population, but data from The Food Foundation suggests food insecurity levels rose to 9% of the population in January 2021.” This is said to have risen even further as a result of the pandemic.

England footballer Marcus Rashford has used his star power to also draw attention to the massive problem of food waste in the UK. His charity FareShare redistributes surplus food to charities that turn it into meals, taking on the legality, food safety and full traceability of items and distributing them to charities who each specialise in the areas of their own community where food is short.

However, what still proves shocking to Birtles is that Freeganism – combining the words free and vegan to describe the act of living from waste food discarded by others – is technically still illegal in the UK. Whilst ‘dumpster-diving’ or ‘skip-diving’ – the process of helping yourself to similarly discarded non-food items from waste receptacles – is technically legal due to a loophole, taking food from a skip or bin is still perceived as theft and will be prosecuted as such.

The difficulty over what happens to surplus food is clearly of significant importance, and recommendations have been put forward to the government that perhaps tax breaks could be offered to encourage supermarkets to donate edible unsold food to food banks (which some supermarkets already do).

Birtles says, “In some countries they have a ‘good Samaritan’ code, whereby food that is thrown out is clearly marked so that those who pick it up and eat it cannot then take the company to court for food poisoning. We need to bring in something like that in this country to protect the supermarkets and enable more people to feed themselves and their families for free.”


Jasmine Birtles, through her website MoneyMagpie.com, has started a campaign for the government to find a loophole or legalise Freeganism. Food waste is an issue, poverty is an issue. Birtles wants to try and make a change by uniting the two.

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