500 words approx. 3-4 minutes to read.

Have you ever wondered what happens to surplus food from your local Co-op? The food that’s perhaps past its best, but still perfectly fine to eat? Matthew Young, Regional Manager for Co-op in the South Division, tells us all about Co-op’s Food Share programme, a scheme that allows stores to partner with local community groups to donate surplus food and ensures it goes to those who need it most.

What is Food Share?

Co-op set up the initiative in May 2018, which involves donating surplus fresh Co-op food that’s going out of date to the local community. It’s a fantastic way of ensuring more food ends up with people in need, as well as supporting our communities. At stores we reach out to community centres, breakfast clubs, soup kitchens and the like, meaning Food Share is making a difference to many people across the UK.

How does Food Share work?

It’s simple: in order to benefit from Food Share, you must be a not-for-profit community group. You need to be able to collect surplus from a Co-op store and use it to feed people in your local community. You also need to be a registered food premises with your local authority.

Once you have applied to become a Food Share Partner and regular collection days are agreed, you’re ready to start your partnership to collect surplus food. No two days are the same in the world of retail, so the produce you receive will vary, depending on what’s available on the day. Evening donations may contain bakery goods, fresh fruit and veg, or meat and chilled products, for example.

To ensure your donation is as fresh as possible, the best time to collect it is in the evening. Your local store can work around you, so if this doesn’t suit you, the next day is fine, too, where you will be able to collect Best Before items.

What are the benefits of Food Share?

Co-op are already working with more than 1,300 community groups — by the end of the year, we aim to have Food Share up and running in half of our stores.

I lead 150 of Co-op’s stores in the South of England, and nearly three-quarters have signed up for Food Share, and each of those stores are making a significant difference. Last year, my stores alone put thousands of items of food back into the community, which might otherwise have gone in the bin. We give to churches, breakfast clubs and community support groups that work with vulnerable people, like the elderly and the homeless.

I’m extremely proud to be a Co-op Leader – giving back to the people who need support the most is really rewarding. I think it’s amazing how Food Share can reach people of all ages and all walks of life, and it really underpins our ways of being Co-op – how we does business differently by supporting communities that our stores trade in.

You can find out more about Food Share and apply here.

Matthew Young
Regional Manager – South Division

Read more about how Co-op supports communities:

Join the conversation! 15 Comments

  1. Some of our larger stores do have Cafes, Rob.

    • I didn’t actually know that but do we ever send food from stores that dont have cafes to ones that do ? Would it also not be possible to have more stores to have cafes especially as it’s been reported that we are going to be opening new stores.

  2. Why does the co-op not open cafes ? Firstly it would create more jobs and secondly it would help reduce food waste as any food that might be coming upto its sell by date could be sent, cooked and sold in the cafe. As I work in a Co-op depot I see 1st hand how much waste comes back and there must be better ways to reduce the amount of waste. Another idea would be to transfer stock to other local co-op’s which might have sold out of certain items, therefore not having to wait for their next delivery especially if there is a shortage from the suppliers / depots (use a transit van with a fridge) which would also create a few more jobs. I assume stores also know what items sell & dont sell so surely they could reduce the amount of items they order that don’t sell as there are particular items we get alot of back at the depot to be disposed of.

  3. Is it possible to freeze Co-op milk? On the container it says ‘ not suitable’ can you tell me why?

  4. What happened to the food before this initiative started?

  5. I think the work that the Cooperative is doing and making sure not only the food, and other Things are not wasted, but that they go to those who desperately need them, is wonderful – thanks to them for this, and God Bless all they are doing and the People as individuals, and other Humans & Animals

  6. I know that many families up and down the country actually shop very late in the day to take advantage of reductions on fresh fruit and vegetables along with other items such as bakery ect sometimes if these items were reduced more then perhaps individuals who are struggling to make ends meet but can’t use food banks due to restrictions on who can actually use them, would be able to take advantage of a good meal at least once a day.

    • I way agree with you, my younger older son and myself have done so many times ourselves and know many people all around England, and I am sure other Countries are just waiting for them to be reduced more; we do all have lovely fresh food and drinks aswell – we are not on the breadline, but many People are, and there are times in my Life when I was younger and my children were younger before our youngest child got born, and I was married and my Husband was working full-time [before Tax Credits came in and helped] when we were way struggling financially through no fault of our own – an going through very bad times a lot of lost Peace in our Lives – and struggling for paying bills and everything was a real struggle, and make things worse, and I used to go to a Church social Club to enjoy the Good Company of other Christians and have a lovely wander around in their very big garden in Peace and Safety with my 2 older Sons, and most of the People were there lovely yet some were not………… One Christmastime they were having a lovely Party which caught me by surprise, and I encouraged my Sons to eat and drink knowing that there was literally nothing I could give them to eat at Home, and because I had not contributed any eatables or drinkables I just had a cup of tea, and I was so tired and size 8 clothes literally slipped off me and longed for some nourishment, and my oldest Son started to fall into a sleep on the comfy seats and this judgmental woman started talking to him in a falsely friendly way, and saying when you come back home you can sleep and your mum will cook you a meal, and she meant all this at me as some sort of reproach to me, (good thing my Son was not listening and knew he would have to wait until my husband got some money and did a little shop) – and I had spent the Child Benefit wisely on our Children though some things – milk & bread & fruit drinks & other things – for all of us, and I tried to help clearing up and she poked me in my ribs and said that I took but had contributed nothing……. I never went to that otherwise lovely church social club again.

    • A very true and heart warming comment that charitable people who have more than they need are prepared to offer thanks for your beliefs X

  7. Does ‘Food Share’ initiative go to the local ‘Food Banks’ as well? Because there are starving people out there (children and adults) who benefit off the Food Banks?

    • I hope so aswell, and there are starving animals, cats, dogs, rodents, other creatures, wildlife, who also need food and drinks

  8. That is super. I expect other traders are passing on their out of date food but this seems much more of an integrated approach to the wider needs of the community.


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