Central England Co-op is rolling out a project that will redirect unsold food to hundreds of local charities.
Following a successful pilot, the retailer has teamed up with FareShare East Midlands to collect best-before food items and non-food goods that cannot be sold from all its food stores, across 16 counties.
They will be delivered via the society’s Food Distribution Centre in Leicester to FareShare, which will send them out to over 250 local charities across the Midlands.
Organisers say the scheme will help cut food waste by at least 40% and provide over one million meals per year to vulnerable people. The pilot scheme took place in nine stores in Leicester and has seen enough food redistributed to deliver over 12,000 meals to people in need.
Hannah Gallimore, corporate responsibility manager at Central England, said: “Food waste is a topic customers and colleagues regularly talk to us about and it is an area that has always been at the forefront of plans at the society.
“We have been looking for a solution to this issue for many years and are now proud to be able to reveal our plan to tackle food waste in a manner that also has a major impact for our communities and our partners.
“This is why, following the success of our pilot project, we are delighted to be able to announce that we are working with FareShare East Midlands and rolling out this project across our trading estate in an effort to drive down food waste and at the same time have a major impact by helping people in need in our communities.”
She added: “One of the main reasons we are so proud of this project is the fact that it is unique and innovative.
“The process behind it is all based around ensuring that the food is sorted, collected and sent out to partners as quickly as possible to ensure that it gets to the people who need it when they need it – ranging from community kitchens to breakfast clubs and hostels.
“It also stands out because we believe it is the first of its kind to use an existing distribution network to collect items and then deliver them to charity.
“We are aiming to initially cut food waste by 40%, but it is our long-term goal that 100% of best before goods that have not been sold will not be wasted and instead be redistributed and put to use by good causes.”
FareShare East Midlands’ director Simone Connolly said: “We are all absolutely delighted at the opportunity to work with Central England Co-op in such a meaningful way.
“The combined effort between us will ensure that thousands more people across our region will have access to perfectly edible food that would otherwise be wasted.”