Following a successful trial at nine stores, Central England Co-op is rolling out a scheme to redirect all unsold food to local charities.
The new programme will cover Co-op stores in 16 counties and will work with more than 250 charities across the Midlands.
Central England Co-op is working with FareShare East Midlands on the scheme which will help tackle both food poverty and food waste.
Under the scheme, best before food items and non-food goods that cannot be sold will be collected from the Society’s Food Distribution Centre in Leicester and then delivered to FareShare for distribution to charities across the Midlands.
Those involved in the project are predicting that the scheme will help cut food waste by at least 40 per cent 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.’
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.
Aiming for 100 per cent diversion
‘The process behind it [the scheme] 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,’ said Hannah.
‘We are aiming to initially cut food waste by 40 per cent, but it is our long-term goal that 100 per cent of best before goods that have not been sold will not be wasted and instead be redistributed and put to use by good causes.’
FareShare East Midlands’ Director Simone Connolly said: ‘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.’
Central England Co-op said the pilot and subsequent rollout of the project was made possible as a result of changes in national guidelines related to best before products.
Best before dates not a barrier
David Moon, head of business collaboration at Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), said: ‘It is a bold ambition to reach 100 per cent 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.’