co-op food redistribution lorries

The Co-op has launched a new food redistribution pilot to send surplus food from its stores to local good causes.

The trial began today in seven stores in South East England and if successful could be rolled out nationally across its 2,800 stores.

The stores involved in today’s trial are two in Watford, three in Hemel Hempstead, one in Chelmsford and one in Braintree, with food that is still fit to eat going to 11 different community groups including several foodbanks, an Age UK centre, a youth centre and a children’s centre.

The project is in line with the Co-op’s pledge to eventually ensure all food from its business that is fit to eat goes to needy causes.

Its latest effort comes on top of a trial in Leeds where surplus food from eight Co-op stores is collected by the Real Junk Food Project, which turns it into meals for six ‘pay as you feel’ cafes in the city and breakfast clubs at local schools.

The Leeds project has redistributed around 20 tonnes of food since the start of the year and cut food waste at some stores by 50%. It is also being evaluated to see if it could work at Co-op stores elsewhere.

More comprehensively, last October the food retailer started to redistribute surplus chilled foods such as yoghurts, meat, fruit, vegetables and ready meals from its nine distribution centres to the FareShare charity.

This followed a trial at the Castlewood depot in Derbyshire and led to 306 tonnes of food being redistributed in 2015, more than three-and-a-half times the 84 tonnes it sent for redistribution the previous year.

The Co-op said the food provided 730,000 meals for needy people and prompted it to target one million meals for 2016, which it was now more than two thirds of the way to achieving.

“Our pledge to ensure any food fit to eat goes to the neediest is part of our aim to do business a better way to benefit the communities that we serve,” said retail chief executive Steve Murrells.

“We have been making great strides in food redistribution, and being able to provide food from our stores to local good causes is another big step forward.

“As a community retailer it was important to us to be able to support the groups where our stores are located, and this trial means we can achieve that goal.”