It has pledged to help the charity after completing a successful pilot with FareShare North East from its distribution centre in Birtley which sent thousands of pounds worth of surplus food to be enjoyed by some of the most disadvantaged people in the community.
The Group has introduced the initiative at its distribution centre in Thurrock and is also putting systems in place to launch the scheme at other sites across the UK, including its depots in Newhouse, near Glasgow, and Lea Green on Merseyside, later this year.
The move coincides with calls from the charity for more companies to supply them with unwanted food, rather than throw it away. FareShare, founded in 2004, aims to reduce food waste by taking surplus food and drink from the food industry and redistributing it among local communities.
Tim Hurrell, Chief Executive, The Co-operative Food, said: “FareShare is a fantastic charity whose simple concept of tackling food poverty and food waste is one we are delighted to support.
“Following the successful trial at our new Regional Distribution Centre in Birtley, where FareShare North East were delighted with the quality and range of products we supplied them, we have launched the scheme at our depot in Thurrock. We are now also looking to introduce this initiative at our other depots across the country.”
During the North East trial, the Group provided products including over-supplies, quality control rejections, damaged packaging and food nearing the end of its shelf life.
Altogether, the society supplied 3.6 tonnes of surplus food from the Birtley depot which went to help some of the region’s most disadvantaged people.
In 2010, FareShare North East supplied the equivalent of 250,000 meals to 35 organisations supporting disadvantaged people in the region.
FareShare North East is a partnership between the Cyrenians, the award-winning charity that supports vulnerable and homeless people in the North East, and FareShare, the national food charity, winners of Britain’s Most Admired Charity at the Third Sector Awards in 2010.
Lindsay Boswell, CEO at FareShare, commented: “It is a fantastic boost for FareShare to link up with an organisation such as the Co-operative Group, who have taken a great step forward by implementing a dedicated IT system to identify stock nearing the end of its shelf life that can be redistributed to benefit those in need.”
As most Co-operative outlets are convenience stores, which do not generate large amounts of waste, it is not practical to operate a FareShare scheme at store level.
However the Group is committed to lowering food waste and has processes in place to minimise product waste at store level and in the supply chain.
• Visit www.fareshare.org.uk for more details on FareShare.