Central England Co-op is rolling out an ambitious project that will see unsold food redirected to help hundreds of local charities.
Following the completion of a successful pilot, the retailer has teamed up with FareShare East Midlands to announce plans that will see all of its food stores across 16 counties included in proposals to help good causes and reduce waste in food stores.
The project will see best before food items and non-food goods that cannot be sold collected by colleagues from the Society’s Food Distribution Centre, in Leicester, then delivered to FareShare to send out to over 250 local charities across the Midlands.
Those involved in the project are predicting that the scheme will help cut food waste by at least 40% and provide over one million meals per year to vulnerable people.
Hannah Gallimore, Central England Co-operative Corporate Responsibility Manager, said: “Food waste is a topic customers and colleagues regularly talk to us about and it is an area that has always been at the forefront of plans at the Society.
“We have been looking for a solution to this issue for many years and are now proud to be able to reveal our plan to tackle food waste in a manner that also has a major impact for our communities and our partners.
“This is why, following the success of our pilot project, we are delighted to be able to announce that we are working with FareShare East Midlands and rolling out this project across our trading estate in an effort to drive down food waste and at the same time have a major impact by helping people in need in our communities.”
The trial took place in nine stores in Leicester and has seen enough food redistributed to deliver over 12,000 meals to people in need.
These results were analysed and it was quickly agreed that due to the success of the pilot this project would be implemented and form part of the strategy to tackle food waste across the Society.
Hannah added: “One of the main reasons we are so proud of this project is the fact that it is unique and innovative.
“The process behind it is all based around ensuring that the food is sorted, collected and sent out to partners as quickly as possible to ensure that it gets to the people who need it when they need it – ranging from community kitchens to breakfast clubs and hostels.
“It also stands out because we believe it is the first of its kind to use an existing distribution network to collect items and then deliver them to charity.
“We are aiming to initially cut food waste by 40 %, but it is our long-term goal that 100 % of best before goods that have not been sold will not be wasted and instead be redistributed and put to use by good causes.
“This will help us minimise food waste and reduce our impact on the environment but, most importantly, help make a real difference for people in need.”
FareShare East Midlands’ Director Simone Connolly said: “We are all absolutely delighted at the opportunity to work with Central England Co-op in such a meaningful way.
“The combined effort between us will ensure that thousands more people across our region will have access to perfectly edible food that would otherwise be wasted.
“While we acknowledge that we’re not able to lift people out of poverty, we can ensure that good food isn’t wasted when there is a real need for it thanks to this ground-breaking partnership with Central England Co-op.”
The pilot and subsequent rollout of the project was made possible thanks to a change in national guidelines related to best before products.
David Moon, Head of Business Collaboration at sustainability experts Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), said: “We are delighted that the Central England Co-operative is to expand its programme for surplus food redistribution. It is a bold ambition to reach 100 % redistribution for food past its best before date, but as our latest date-label guidance clearly shows – a best before date should never be a barrier to good food being eaten. We are delighted the Central England Co-operative has used our guidance to help expand this important programme.”