Approx 800 words.
It’s not right or fair that people should have to go hungry. Chief Executive Jo Whitfield explains how Co-op has been working to tackle food poverty over the last year, including its ongoing support into 2021.
It’s heart-breaking to think families and children in the UK are still going hungry, especially during this unprecedented time. As a co-operative, we recognise our responsibility to make a real difference. Change doesn’t come about without action, after all. We want to build stronger and more resilient communities by offering fairer access to food for everyone, and Co-op has taken great strides to play its part in tackling food poverty. But the job is by no means done; there will always be more support we can give to the communities we serve. This is our journey so far…
We’re working together to make a difference
Together with Co-op Members, customers, colleagues and communities, we’ve made real progress in our bid to tackle food poverty over the last year. To name a few examples:
- In 2020, we donated £1.5 million of Co-op stock to food distribution charity FareShare, along with over £250,000 from our Coronavirus fund. Fareshare also used some of their DEFRA funding on cost purchase of Co-op stock during the height of the pandemic, in the spring, and will be doing the same over the Christmas period.
- As part of our work as a founding member of the Child Food Poverty Task Force, led by campaigner Marcus Rashford MBE, we’ve topped up the value of the government’s Healthy Start vouchers by adding £1 to every voucher spent, to help families have access to more healthy and nutritious food. Healthy Start vouchers can be used to buy essentials such as milk, fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried and tinned pulses and first-stage infant formula. Those in need of aid or wanting to provide help can visit End Child Poverty, which we’re very proud to have played a part in bringing to life.
- The pandemic presented unique challenges for those who were forced to isolate. To help, Co-op set up a Community Shopping Scheme to make it easier for those at home to pay for and get their essentials delivered, benefitting over 11,000 customers.
- Co-op was the first major food retailer to support footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals vouchers and provided an additional 6,000 children with free school meal vouchers within our own Co-op Academy schools.
- Thanks to Co-op Members and customers, our summer picnic range raised £1.5 million, helping the National Emergencies Trust and UK Community Foundations to provide support to those who need it most. The funding is being distributed to grass-root groups providing access to food, such as Gloucester Foodbank and Newsham and New Delaval Youth Forum.
But there’s still much more we can do…
I’m proud of what we achieved during the difficult circumstances of 2020, but let’s go even further in 2021. We will of course continue our longstanding partnerships with FareShare and Co-op’s own Food Share programme, redistributing surplus food to community groups that help vulnerable people across the UK, but there will always be more we can do to support the provision of food to those who need it most.
Through members shopping with us, we’ll be doing even more in 2021 to help people gain fair access to food through the Community Partnerships Fund. At the end of last year, we also partnered with Deliveroo and The Felix Project in selected London stores. The aim of the partnership was to redistribute surplus best-before items to families in need across the capital, and we’ve since expanded to include many more London stores, with expansion into 2021.
Real change comes about when people work together – and everyone can do their bit for their community. To show your support and help provide people with fairer access to food, why not volunteer at a local group that’s distributing food to local communities or tackling food waste, or donate to your local food charity? Check out the Trussell Trust to find one near you or ask which not-for-profit food group your local store supports through our Food Share programme.
Reducing the amount of food you waste at home can make a real difference, not only to your pocket but the planet, too. Find out how to use up 5 of the most commonly wasted ingredients, or visit Love Food Hate Waste for more food-saving tips. You can find out more about how to get involved with all the above on our online platform co-operate.coop.co.uk.
Lastly, simply by becoming a Co-op Member and choosing a local food-related cause to fund, you’ll be making a difference every time you shop.
Help us. Work with us. Join us.
Chief Executive Co-op Food