By Leon Exton-Russell, Castlewood Depot General Manager

Food waste and food poverty are two of the biggest issues facing our society and our communities right now. FareShare estimates that over two million tonnes of good to eat food goes to waste ever year, meanwhile eight million people nationwide struggle to afford to eat.

Back in 2013, we at Castlewood partnered with FareShare to redistribute food that might have been destined for the bin to the food charity. After a successful trial, the scheme was rolled out to all 10 of our depots across the country in 2015.

I’m proud to announce that in the five full years our depots have been working with FareShare, we’ve been able to donate 5.7 million meals worth of surplus food to keep those in our communities fed. 

How we do it

This incredible number has been a true collaborative effort from all the depots in our network. You might be wondering why some of this food never makes its way to our stores, and what kind of food we donate.

All our suppliers have the option to ‘Opt In’ or ‘Opt Out’ of Fareshare. By opting in, they agree that any stock that doesn’t meet our guidelines can be donated to FareShare. There are a few reasons why we donate stock to FareShare. Often, it’s because the supplier has sent in short dated stock and doesn’t meet our minimum guaranteed shelf life in store. We also sometimes receive excess stock that wasn’t ordered by Co-op, and the surplus is then donated.

The main types of food we’re able to donate are juices, meat, cheese to fresh produce, ready meals or poultry. FareShare then distribute this out to over 11,000 frontline charities and community groups. This includes homeless shelters, school breakfast clubs and food banks.

It’s been a year like no other

As well as the five million meals donated over five years from logistics, the Co-op have also helped with emergency appeals for access to food throughout the pandemic.

Back in Easter, we ran a donate campaign asking the public to text, donate in store or donate their member wallets to help feed the nation. The advert featured our colleagues along with Marcus Rashford, and through our efforts we raised enough money to donate an additional five million meals to FareShare. In total, we’ve been able to donate over 10 million meals to help those going hungry which we know can make a huge difference for the most vulnerable in our communities.

In July, we also pledged 20p from the sales of our ‘3 for 2’ picnic range which raised over £1.54m for National Emergencies Trust. The money was then distributed to grass root projects across the UK who are helping people get access to food.

As well as donations and fundraising, we’re also tackling access to food in other ways. Just last month we launched our Honest Value brand, offering products at great prices whilst maintaining our Co-op values. The range include products which are 100% British Protein, Fairtrade, Cruelty Free and more. They’re also the cheapest products you’ll find in our stores. We also launched our Price Cuts campaign which has seen us cut the price of everyday essentials and family favourites.

Together, we’ve been able to achieve incredible things. Our work to redistribute food in Logistics will continue while we as a business will champion fairer access to food and provide quality, honesty and value to our customers, members and our communities through the products we sell.