How We Source Our Food

As well as helping people provide healthy, tasty food for their families, at Catch 77 we also aim to help reduce the waste of surplus food. Food that hasn’t been sold but still is edible is called surplus food. Food becomes surplus from over production, labelling errors or short shelf life. Surplus food occurs everywhere in the supply chain from the farms to the table. In 2018, annual food waste was estimated at around 9.5 million tonnes with a value of £19 billion, and responsible for 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions; and food waste is rising in UK households, hospitality and food services, food manufacture, retail and wholesale sectors. (WARP, 2020)

Catch 77 sources ingredients for our food boxes through partners such as Exeter Food Action where surplus food is donated rather than wasted. These donations are supplemented with other ingredients that we purchase to provide nutritious and balanced meal plans.  By working in partnership with organisations like Exeter Food Action to use surplus food, Catch 77 is preventing food being wasted,  redistributing to those who need it, and as a direct result doing our part to reduce climate change.  It also brings down the cost of producing our food boxes so we can help more families.

Food Quality and Freshness

Because of the way we source our food, some items we include in our boxes may be close to the end of their ‘shelf life’. However, we undertake quality checks with every product to assess whether it is suitable to be eaten. In some cases, the surplus food is frozen or refrigerated to ensure the food is maintained to a high standard.

It is important to note the difference between ‘Best Before’ dates and ‘Use By’ dates. ‘Use By’ dates are about safety as these dates are on foods that go off quickly such as meat products. After the ‘Use By’ dates have elapsed the food could be unsafe to eat even if it’s stored correctly and looks and smells fine.  A lot of foods including meat and milk can be frozen before the ‘Use By’ date. Catch 77 does include items in our boxes that have been frozen before their ‘Use By’ date, either by Catch 77, or before we collect them from Exeter Food Action. However, we will never source or distribute fresh foods (unfrozen) that are past their ‘Use By’ date.

On the other hand, ‘Best Before’ dates are about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after its ‘Best Before’ date but may not be at its best.  We do include fresh items in our boxes that are past their ‘Best Before’ date, and these items may need using quickly, or may need a bit of attention before being used. For example, we would include Brussel sprouts that are past their ‘Best Before’ date and that may need a few outer leaves removing before use. However, we quality control what goes in the box, and don’t include things we wouldn’t use ourselves. (In fact the team sometimes take home things to use that we don’t think we can include in the boxes, just to reduce waste as much as possible!)

We are aware that some people are less used to making use of food after its ‘Best Before’ date and we hope that this blog helps to reassure everyone that receives a box from us that what we put it the boxes is safe to use!  Catch 77 believes everyone has the right to eat well, whatever their circumstances, and the families we support deserve to eat good quality, nutritious and tasty food.  In order to provide our free food boxes we do need to make use of surplus food to bring the cost down, but all the food we provide is good, safe and tasty – plus in using surplus food our families and helping to reduce waste and its impact on the climate.


If you want to read more about the ‘Best Before’ and ‘Use By’ dates guidance there is more information if you follow the link:


If you want to read more about food surplus and waste in the UK follow this link: