Co-op lorry at FareShare

The Co-operative Food has pledged to donate all the surplus food from its warehouses to redistribution charity FareShare after a trial at one depot saw 32 tonnes of food aid provided in the space of just 10 weeks.

After the pilot at its depot in Castlewood, Derbyshire, the retailer said it was rolling out the programme from this week, supplying a range of chilled food items such as yoghurt, meat, fruit, vegetables and ready meals.

FareShare will pass the food on to charities and community groups.

The Co-operative said it had redistributed enough food in the trial for nearly 80,000 meals for charity groups and estimated that in 2016 it could provide 500 tonnes from all depots - enough food for over a million meals. 

“This project has the capacity to improve the variety and nutritional value of the food redistributed by The Co-op, and to significantly increase the number of people that FareShare can support,” said Steve Murrells, chief executive of retail at The Co-operative Food. 

“In addition to the huge human benefit there are significant positive environmental impacts as all of this food will be diverted from anaerobic digestion back into the food chain, feeding people first as was intended. Only a tiny percentage of total food waste - around 1.3% - comes from the grocery retail industry but we are committed to reducing this. We are very grateful to all the suppliers that have agreed to support this initiative.”

FaresSare CEO Lindsay Boswell said: “We’re really excited to be working with The Co-operative on this project and we commend them for rolling it out nationwide. It’s been fantastic to see how well the new process has worked at Castlewood, helping to provide thousands of meals to vulnerable people in Yorkshire. By working with their suppliers, staff and FareShare regional centres, The Co-operative has demonstrated real commitment to preventing food waste in the long term and to providing edible surplus food to projects supporting vulnerable people across England, Wales and Scotland.”

Richard Swannell, director of sustainable food systems at the charity Wrap, added: “We’re delighted to see the progress The Co-operative Food has made in redistributing quality food from across its supply chain. No-one wants to see perfectly edible food in the bin when it can be used to feed people. That’s much better for society, the environment and the economy. This move will help The Co-operative Food and suppliers reduce the amount of food that is lost, and contribute towards the targets of the Courtauld Commitment 3 voluntary agreement.”