The Co-operative Group has joined forces with food redistribution charity FareShare.

The society joined up ­after completing a successful pilot with FareShare's North East operations from its distribution centre in Birtley, County Durham.

The Co-op supplied 3.6 tonnes of surplus food ­including oversupplies, quality control rejections, damaged packaging and food nearing the end of its shelf life as part of the trial. It has now introduced the scheme to its distribution centre in Thurrock, Essex, and will roll it out to Newhouse, near Glasgow, and Lea Green, on Merseyside, later this year.

The scheme is being run from the Co-op's depots because the society said that as it only ran c-stores and mid-sized supermarkets, which generated lower waste than big stores, it was not practical to operate the scheme at store level.

"FareShare is a fantastic charity whose simple concept of tackling food poverty and food waste is one we are delighted to back," added Tim Hurrell, CEO of The Co-op's food business.

FareShare is calling for more businesses to donate unwanted food.