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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Co-op set up the initiative in May 2018, which involves donating surplus fresh Co-op food that’s going out of date to the local community.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.
Regional Manager – South Division