A group of leading supermarkets this week began selling their food at 70% discounts to feed the poor, in an initiative which could become a new model for tackling hunger across the UK.

Retailers including, Asda, The Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and Tesco have begun serving hundreds of people on income support as part of a scheme backed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

In what has been billed as the UK’s first full-scale social supermarket, 750 members of the scheme will receive low-cost, high-quality surplus food as well as training to help them get back to work. Leadings brands including Innocent, Muller and Nestle are also taking part.

The model was highlighted by last week’s All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK with the subsequent Feeding Britain report call for a nationwide system of such services.

As well as surplus food, Community Shop in West Norwood, Lambeth, will also allow members to enrol on a tailored professional development programme – called The Success Plan – which aims to raise members’ self-confidence and job prospects.

The London store marks the start of a national roll-out programme after the success of a pilot store (for 500 members) which opened in Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire, in December last year.

Community Shop has plans to open 20 more stores across the country, with a number of locations already in the pipeline.

“The support we have had from retailers and brands has been fantastic and demonstrates the real need and support for a project like this in London and beyond,” said John Marren, chairman of Company Shop Group “It is tackling the problem of surplus food, whilst giving it real social purpose.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson added: “This is a sterling example of social enterprise and private organisations working together to create positive outcomes.”

Gavin Chappell, VP supply chain and eCommerce at Asda, said: “We are really committed to reducing both food waste and food poverty in this country, and Community Shop is a way of not only doing that but also about creating new customers as they come out of the Community Shop process and go back in to mainstream retailing.”

Suzanne Westlake, head of corporate responsibility at Ocado added: “The fact that it is addressing the root cause and helping people along the way, rather than just offering low-cost food, is fantastic and Ocado is delighted to be partnering with it.

And Greg Sage, community director for Tesco, said: “The Barnsley pilot has been a great addition to the local community and we’re looking forward to working with Community Shop on their future plans for more social supermarkets in more communities.”