Spare military food supplies should go to army of homeless - Frank Field

Updated: 

A senior MP is calling for unwanted army food supplies to be given to the "army of the homeless" as it emerged the Ministry of Defence throws away thousands of food packages every year.

Figures released to Parliament show more than 12,000 operational ration packs (ORPs) were binned between April and December - more than in the previous 12 months.

Work and Pensions Select Committee chairman Frank Field is now calling for these surplus packs to be used to help feed the UK's growing homeless population before they go out of date.

"What we're making a plea for from the Defence Secretary is to use any unwanted food supplies to feed his army to instead help feed the army of the homeless," Mr Field told the Press Association.

"These supplies are designed for people, in a sense, to eat on the run, and people in doorways are in a similar position.

"They're ideally constructed for when people haven't got much."

An answer to a written parliamentary question from Mr Field by defence minister Harriett Baldwin says the Ministry of Defence (MoD) threw away 12,275 ORPs between April and December.

In the whole of the 2015/16 financial year 10,798 ORPs were disposed of, while the year before the figure was 5,004.

Labour MP Mr Field said food banks had raised the issue repeatedly, given the difficulties of catering for people who cannot cook or even store food.

Mr Field added that he was "staggered" by the amount of food packages the MoD throws away, adding: "The number is going up and they're only destroying it.

"I just hope someone will look into it. Let's move it from one army to the army of the homeless."

Ms Baldwin said out-of-date ORPs are withdrawn from use and disposed of in line with current food safety legislation.

An MoD spokesman added: "Our stocks of ORPs are managed to make sure they are consumed within the two-year shelf life required to meet our food quality standards.

"We only undertake disposal of ORP as a last resort and only at a point when the product can no longer be consumed.

"Due to the changing nature of exercises or deployments, there will of course be occasions when ORP has not been issued before it becomes out of date."