Tamworth Co-op steps up for local community

Hundreds of struggling families received free emergency food parcels from the co-operative

Hundreds of families struggling to make ends meet during the cost-of-living crisis received thousands of pounds worth of emergency food supplies from the Tamworth Co-op during the half-term break. 

In the biggest-ever logistical operation of its kind in the area, 450 food parcels donated by the retail society were delivered to nearly 40 schools in its trading area. The schools then distributed the parcels to the families of pupils they had identified as most in need of help. 

Heart of Tamworth (HoT), the charity co-ordinating the effort, says many parents now rely on their children having access to breakfast clubs and free school lunches. Outside term times, they desperately need help to feed their children.

For the past two years, the charity has been responding to the crisis by putting together food parcels each containing £5-£6 worth of non-perishable items. Tamworth Co-op’s parcels, taken from its town centre warehouse, contained food worth around five times more and include tins of soup, baked beans, sweetcorn, meatballs, spaghetti, pasta sauces, cream crackers, oats, cornflakes, milk, coffee, tea, biscuits and strawberry jam.

Tamworth Co-op colleagues with with the contents of a single food parcel

HoT is run by two full-time employees backed by a 140-strong army of volunteers, and supports people of all ages suffering from ill health, addiction, bereavement, homelessness, financial worries and loneliness. It also runs a community café and pantry where users can purchase a bag of food for £5.

As well as providing all supplies for the half-term parcel drop, Tamworth Co-op has donated a further £1,000 worth of food to the community pantry. 

Catherine Smith, chair of HoT, says everyone at the charity was bowled over by the co-op’s generosity.

“The economic climate has impacted heavily on our fundraising in recent years,” she said. “Support from local businesses is exceptionally important to us, but local firms have also been hit by the pandemic period and the subsequent cost-of-living crisis. 

“We can’t thank Tamworth Co-op enough for donating such a huge amount of food and for helping with the deliveries too. The parcels were by far the biggest we’ve ever been able to hand out and more schools were involved this time too. It came as a godsend to hundreds of families.”

She added: “I think many local people are unaware of the level of poverty in their midst. It is a truly shocking situation. We know that some teachers have been bringing in food and even toasters from their own homes to give pupils something to eat. That’s how desperate the situation is right now. 

“We had the pandemic, and then we’ve had record levels of inflation and soaring energy and food costs. It has caused a great deal of human suffering. We know of some teachers who have even been taking home pupils’ washing.”

Julian Coles, chief executive of Tamworth, praised the efforts of food staff. “Colleagues have been extremely motivated and worked hard on this project. It’s a great pleasure to support this vital initiative. It’s hard to comprehend that so many people in our area are suffering such a degree of poverty, but it’s so inspiring that an army of fantastic people in this town are doing everything they can to help.

The money for the project was allocated from Tamworth Co-op’s Community Dividend Fund which has raised more than £100,000 for worthwhile local causes over the past decade alone. 

Coles thanked shoppers at the society’s 12 food stores for donating the dividends they earned on their purchases to the fund. 

“Families living in the vicinity of every one of our stores benefited from the money that our customers have helped to raise. I think they would be very happy to know that their contributions have been put to such good use.

“Supporting and caring for the local community has been a fundamental part of what we do since we were founded in the town by Reverend William MacGregor in 1886. He championed the plight of the poor in the Tamworth area and this particular project would have been very close to his heart.”