The Co-op Group is ending last-minute food sales to support community groups and stop food going to waste.
From today, the Group is rolling out a national food redistribution scheme, the first of its kind, which will send products including fresh food and bakery items to thousands of small community groups.
The Co-op Food Share scheme will take products off sale earlier to get fresh food within its use-by date to charities in time for them to cook or freeze. The community groups will be able to collect from multiple stores, regularly, with flexible collection times.
Co-op Food Share will have a phased roll-out during 2018 to support the 1,500 towns, villages and cities where it has stores, following a successful trial at 50 branches.
Chief executive Steve Murrells, who will unveil the initiative at the Group’s AGM in Manchester on Saturday, said: “It’s unbelievable that over a third of the food produced around the world goes to waste. We’re calling time on food waste and will take products off sale earlier to get fresh food with its use-by date to charities in time for them to cook or freeze.
“At the Co-op we want to strengthen and support communities and we are committed to tacking food waste and ensuring food gets into the hands of those who need it most.
“We work hard to reduce waste but believe any food that we don’t sell should end up feeding people, wherever possible. We’ve been listening to our charity partners and community groups and they tell us that in order to create healthy and nutritious meals they need access to fresh food. Now we are making that possible.”
Laura Winningham, CEO of London-based hunger relief charity, City Harvest, said: “We’ve helped trial the scheme and we are absolutely thrilled to see the programme roll out across the rest of the UK. Often, charities like ours are inundated with bread and bakery items but what we desperately need, to be able to provide people nutritious hearty meals, is a wider range of fresh produce.
“Creating a flexible system to allow charities access to surplus meat, salads and fruit and vegetables means more good food can help to meet the growing demand out in the community. It’s great to think that organisations like ours, all over the country, will be able to build strong working relationships with their local Co-op stores which will deliver immeasurable amounts of benefit to those most in need.”
Dr David Moon, head of business collaboration at WRAP, which works with organisations to promote resource efficiency, said: “Co-op Food Share is an exciting and innovative scheme that will contribute significantly to the ambition of Courtauld Commitment 2025 signatories to double the amount of surplus food they redistribute by 2020 against a 2015 baseline.”
The Group is a key signatory of The Grocer’s Waste Not Want Not campaign, as well as the Courtauld Commitment 2025, which brings together leading organisations from across the food chain to tackle food and drink waste, working towards the UN’s goal of halving food waste by 2030.
It already works with hunger fighting charity, FareShare, to redistribute food from its depots. Since 2013 it has provided enough food for over three million meals.
Good causes and charities who can commit to collecting fresh food regularly and provide meals for people in the community on a not-for-profit basis, can apply to be a part of Co-op Food Share by registering at: http://www.coop.co.uk/foodshare