The Co-op is urging community groups to apply for a share of the £1.5m it has raised through sales of its picnic range packs.
The society said it was particularly keen to back groups involved in fighting hunger and tackling the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Applications opened this week and grants will be processed via 46 community foundations across the UK, the retailer said.
Over the summer, the Co-op pledged to donate 20p from sales of its three-for-two picnic offer to the National Emergencies Trust (NET) in order to fund grassroots projects across the country which provide access to food and promote wellbeing in communities.
“It’s heartbreaking to think of families and children in the UK going hungry and facing such acute challenges during this unprecedented time,” said Co-op director of community and shared value Rebecca Birkbeck.
“The need faced by many families is only growing and we continue to do all we can to support the most vulnerable to gain access to the food they need. Our co-operation with NET and UK Community Foundations means this funding can quickly go to work, focusing on what really matters in local communities and providing direct support to those who most need it to make a difference to their health and wellbeing.”
Mhairi Sharp, interim CEO at National Emergencies Trust, commented: “With the pandemic continuing to pose significant challenges to families and individuals across the UK, we’re delighted that an impressive £1.5m has been raised and will be distributed across grassroots organisations during the winter months. The National Emergencies Trust was set up to collaborate with charities, corporates and the public to raise and distribute money as efficiently as possible and our partnership with Co-op and UK Community Foundations reflects what can be achieved by a truly collaborative effort.”
Rosemary Macdonald, CEO at UK Community Foundations, added: “Pre-existing food poverty has really been compounded by the pandemic and we’ve seen huge demand for the services of local charities and community organisations that can provide relief to people struggling to access food. As we enter the winter months this situation will get worse for many. Using the expert local knowledge of our network of community foundations, we will ensure that the money raised by our partners will go to the local organisations best placed to support the people and communities affected by food poverty.”
Co-op has been a vocal supporter of Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend the free school meals scheme beyond term time. This month it pledged to provide vouchers during half term for over 6,000 eligible students in its 25 Academies across the north of England. It has also raised funds and donated stock to provide over five million meals for FareShare.
The closing date for applications for grants is 13 November. These will typically be for between £2,000 and £10,000.