By Jo Whitfield, Co-op Food CEO
This year has thrown up massive challenges for our Food business. Whilst our frontline colleagues in food stores and logistics are doing an amazing job at keeping the nation fed, the crisis has revealed that far too many people are constantly struggling to put food on the table.
Research by the Food Standards Agency found that the poorest among us have been hardest hit, with as many as 1 in 10 using food banks. No one, including children, should have to worry about when their next meal will be, but sadly this is a constant source of concern and worry for too many.
As a food business, and a co-operative founded on fairness, it’s so important that we stay true to our roots and use our assets to campaign for long-lasting change.
That’s why we were one of the first retailers to join the Child Food Poverty Task Force, formed by Marcus Rashford. Together we’re calling on the Government to allocate enough budget to the three National Food Strategy recommendations, as part of an urgent recovery package for vulnerable children this autumn.
The power is in co-operation and using our voice to campaign for greater help for those who need it most in our communities. We can now all play a part in signing this important petition.
You can read more about the campaign and sign the petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/554276/
Please share with your family, friends and social followers, and let’s stand together to help end child food poverty.
Here are some of the other things we’ve done so far this year to support food poverty with many more to come.
Members’ Coronavirus Fund
Thanks to our members donating their personal reward earlier this year, we were able to make a £1m donation to food charity, FareShare.
The money helped provide almost four million meals to those in need, which was topped up by a another donation of Co-op stock worth £1.5m.
FareShare have since worked with 11,000 local charities to help feed vulnerable people in communities across the UK. And since our campaign with Marcus Rashford, they’ve had a further 1,000 charities reach out.
We’ve seen first-hand the effects lack of food can have on children. 67% of pupils qualify for free school meals in one of our Co-op Academies, compared to an average of 32% across all Co-op schools and a national average of 12%.
That’s why, when schools were closed during lockdown and over the summer holidays, we gave weekly Co-op Food vouchers to all those on free school meals.
When customers shopped our 3 for 2 picnic range over the summer, 20p went to the National Emergencies Trust. They distributed the £1.54m raised to grassroots projects who help people get access to food.
This year we started to build on the great work we’ve done with FareShare by promoting our own local food redistribution scheme, FoodShare.
With FoodShare, our food stores can donate perfectly edible unsold food to local groups who feed vulnerable people in the communities we serve.
If you know a group that could benefit from FoodShare, please encourage them to sign up to become a partner.
I’m thrilled that the extra money raised by members is being channelled into the new Community Partnerships Fund.
It’ll see us partner with likeminded organisations to improve access to food, as well as mental wellbeing support and education and employment opportunities for young people.
We’ll keep you updated as we invite new partners to help us tackle food inequality. but in the meantime, you can help by donating some of your personal membership reward to the Community Partnerships Fund through the Co-op App.