The Co-op Group has announced a partnership with environmental Hubbub to fast-track the expansion of community fridges across the UK.
Community fridges are open to everyone in communities – without any need to be referred or having to prove eligibility – to share fresh food that would otherwise have gone to waste. The food is donated by businesses – with the Group donating surplus food from its stores.
The partnership – which has been backed by football star and poverty campaingner Marcus Rashford – will see 100 new community fridges added to Hubbub’s network, growing it 250 by the end of 2021; it is on track to put 15 new fridges in place this month,
Alongside tackling hunger, the project is designed to help communities connect with each other, and teach new skills through activities such as cookery sessions and workshops on how to grow fruit and veg.
This new fridges will save a further 6.8 million meals per year from going to waste, says the Group. It builds on the existing 150 fridges in the network, which redistribute an average of almost 6,000 meals per fridge each month.
One of the first fridges of the new partnership opened this week in Failsworth, Greater Manchester at the Co-op Academy. Also among this month’s new additions is one in Wythenshawe, South Manchester – the home turf of Mr Rashford.
Co-op Group CEO Steve Murrells said: “Thanks to our members and customers, we’re delighted to be partnering with Hubbub on such an innovative scheme bringing communities together, empowering people towards community-led food solutions that will help to build community resilience.
“As a co-operative, we recognise our responsibility to make a genuine difference and have already made a number of interventions to help tackle food poverty and create fairer access to food, through our food share partnerships and our donations to Fareshare.
“However, our work in our local communities has shown us that to really make a sustainable difference we need to co-operate with others to build the resilience needed for the future.”
The initiative continues the Group’s campaigning work on food poverty. It has played a leading role in Mr Rashford’s Stop Child Poverty taskforce supporting his campaign for free school meals, funding over £3m of free school meal vouchers for Co-op Academy students. The Group also topped up the value of the government’s Healthy Start vouchers by adding £1 to every voucher spent.
Mr Rashford said: “The Co-op is a valuable founding member of the Child Food Poverty Taskforce and has consistently stepped up to the plate throughout the pandemic to support our most vulnerable families. They have demonstrated how community action can make real sustainable change and just how powerful we can be when we come together. Together with Hubbub, the Co-op has developed a programme that spans far beyond access to food and I’m so excited to see that my own community in Wythenshawe will benefit.”
Tessa Tricks, senior creative partner at Hubbub, said: “The partnership with Co-op has given Hubbub a unique opportunity to expand its Community Fridge Network at a greater scale and speed than would usually be possible.
“These fridges play a vital role in communities across the UK by not only providing access to good quality food while reducing food waste but by bringing people together to share and learn from one another. In the past year, many of the fridges have provided a lifeline to families struggling as a result of the pandemic and we have seen the fridges turn into a place where people come together and support each other to tackle whatever challenges are thrown at them. They really are more than just a fridge.”
The new funding will provide 100 £4,000 grants to support community fridge organisers with running costs such as volunteer expenses, insurance and cleaning materials. The Group will also invest in the development of the Hubbub and the Community Fridge Network, to offer support to previously established fridges and other organisations that host community fridges.
- For more information on The Community Fridge Network, including a map of fridge locations and advice for those interested in setting up a community fridge, visit: www.hubbub.org.uk/the-community-fridge