700 words approx. 3-4 minutes to read
Dear Co-op members and customers
I’ve never known anything like what we’re experiencing right now. I know you’ll be as worried as I am about the health of your loved ones and the livelihoods of those around you. The Co-op’s got a critical role to play in supporting our members, customers, and colleagues as well as local communities across the country. My heartfelt commitment to you is that we will work through this, together, in the most co-operative, responsible and compassionate way we can – just as you would expect us to. While I don’t have all the answers and the information we’re getting is changing as fast as I can type this note, I wanted to let you know how we’re responding.
Our food stores
In our food stores we’re working round the clock to make sure our shops remain stocked. You’ll have heard the request from the Government not to panic buy. I know you’ll be thinking of your friends and family as you shop, as well as yourself, but please shop normally so there’s enough for everyone all of the time.
We’re also going to do everything we can to make sure our most vulnerable customers get the food they need and we’re looking at a few different options to make this happen.
It’s not just customers in our food stores we’re thinking about either. We know that for many children who get free school meals, lunch is the main meal of the day, so if school closes unexpectedly there’s a risk they go hungry. We can’t let this happen.
So, we’re stepping in and giving 6,500 students that have free school meals at our 25 Co-op Academy schools a £20 voucher for every week of unplanned closure. This can be spent in any Co-op food store. But it’s a drop in the ocean when you consider there are 1.4 million kids on free school meals in this country. So that’s why today, I’ve also asked the Government to lead a nationwide effort to make sure no child goes hungry just because they can’t go to school.
Our Funeral homes
Our funeral care teams also have an extraordinary role to play. We’re calling on the Government for support because our whole industry is going to be turned upside down by this crisis and we need a joined up approach. In the meantime, our colleagues do difficult work with utmost care and compassion, and no matter how they’re challenged in these coming months, I know that won’t change.
You’ll likely already know friends and family members who are self-isolating at the moment. I know this will be hugely difficult for everyone but particularly if you have an existing condition that requires a repeat prescription. If you do, then please make use of our Co-op Health app where we can arrange delivery of your prescriptions, free of charge, across England. Unfortunately, we haven’t got connectivity for the rest of the UK just yet but we’re working on it.
Supporting your community
I’m sure you already know, but at the Co-op we passionately care about communities. And right now, community is everything! So we’re urgently and carefully looking at how we can use everything we’ve got to help – from our 700 Member Pioneer colleagues, to our local community fund, to our partnership on mental wellbeing with MIND, SAMH & Inspire. We’re also working on a new online platform called ‘Co-operate’ which connects people to local support and information. I can’t think of a time when this kind of tool has been more needed and so we’re pulling out all the stops to build it faster and get it to more communities.
Right now my teams are working out the best way for us to help, practically and financially, where we’re most needed. Colleagues right across the business are working exceptionally hard, while caring for themselves and their families too. I’ve never been prouder of them or more grateful for their commitment.
These are exceptional times but I promise that we’re here for you and we’ll work to support each other through this.
Read more from Steve:
- “Trade, Community and the Climate Emergency – why co-operation is the only response” – Steve Murrells
- We’re celebrating 175 years of the Co-op by looking to our future
- We’re the first UK retailer to pledge to meet the United Nations’ climate target by 2050 – but we’ll need political will and real co-operation to get there