Foodbanks across the UK have been struggling to meet high demand, but during the summer months donations have been falling. Co-operatives have responded by stepping up their efforts to make their local foodbanks more sustainable, all year round.
When its local foodbank's stocks ran worryingly low, The Southern Co-operative made more than just a donation. It began working with the Isle of Wight Council on a new scheme in its stores on the island, aimed at helping the Isle of Wight Foodbank maintain its supplies.
At the request of Independent Councillor Luisa Hillard, Isle of Wight Council donated £1,000 to the foodbank when stocks ran low. The Southern Co-operative, which runs 12 community food stores on the island, matched this with £1,000 worth of food.
Gemma Lacey, Head of Sustainability at the Southern Co-operative, said: "We’re pleased to help Isle of Wight Council with this emergency situation and are keen to work with the council to find a sustainable solution that will give long term support to those in need on the Island. A similar scheme in six of our Portsmouth stores, with the generous support of our customers, provides a much needed service to their local communities."
Councillor Hillard, Cabinet Member for Sustainability at the Council, added: “There’s an urgent need to replenish Foodbank stocks. We’re working with the Southern Co-operative to look at the feasibility of running collection points in their larger island stores.
“The aim of this would be to provide ongoing support for Foodbank and avoid the situation we saw over the bank holiday, when stocks came close to running out. This will be a good example of how the public, private and voluntary sectors are able to work together to find effective community solutions to local issues.”
Hannah King, Manager of the Isle of Wight Foodbank, said she looked forward to working with as many people as possible to make the foodbank sustainable. "There’s a tremendous need for Foodbank here on the Island and to date local people have generously donated over 62 tonnes of food.
“We’re feeding around 100 people per week who are finding themselves in crisis. Forty-five per cent of these are children. This gift and support from the Council and The Southern Co-operative will help us greatly."
Meanwhile in Suffolk, the East of England Co-operative has teamed up with its local radio station to raise awareness of the importance of foodbanks during the summer months. The co-op supports foodbanks in Norfolk and Essex as well as Suffolk all year round, but has extended collection points to all its Suffolk stores throughout June.
Amanda Long, Executive Officer for Membership, Marketing and Media at East of England Co-operative, said: “People often only think about foodbanks around Christmas, but there's a growing need for their services throughout the year. During June we’re supporting local foodbanks with collection points in all our Suffolk food stores and supermarkets. In the summer people still need to pay their bills and they still get made redundant.”
BBC Radio Suffolk is supporting the campaign and is encouraging listeners to visit the stores to donate food thoughout the month. The co-op has collection points in 60 stores all year round, with an extra 52 in Suffolk for the month of June.
Ms Long said: "Over 350 items were donated in the first week of our June summer drive, which is fantastic. Since our support of foodbanks began last year, in Ipswich, Colchester and Norwich our customers' and members' donations have helped over 10,000 food parcels to be produced."