By Rebecca Birkbeck, Community & Shared Value Director
It’s safe to say that 2020 was a year like no other. It has shaped the way we live our lives and had an immeasurable impact on all of us, but it’s also shone a light on the inequalities present in communities across the UK.
As the events of 2020 unfolded, we recognised a need to evolve our community plan to ensure that it’s tackling the real issues present in our communities head-on.
Our Co-op vision is ‘Co-operating for a fairer world’, and our work during the crisis – as well as insights from our Community Wellbeing Index, our members, colleagues and causes – have shown us what communities need and where we can have the greatest impact:
• Fairer access to food
• Fairer access to mental wellbeing services
• Fairer access to education and employment for young people
We believe we can build stronger, more resilient, adaptable communities by developing targeted projects and partnerships within these three areas. It’s with this mind that I’m delighted to announce a new £500,000 partnership between Co-op and Hubbub. Hubbub is an award-winning charity that inspires ways of living that are good for the environment, designing trailblazing campaigns that tackle social as well as environmental issues which disrupt the status quo, nudge behaviours and build more resilient communities.
Co-op and Hubbub are coming together to create more places where communities can share and access healthy food, connect with each other, learn new skills and become more resilient to challenges that are thrown at them. And it starts with a fridge!
At present, Hubbub coordinates the world’s largest community fridge network, with over 150 incredible fridges running across the UK. Through this partnership, Co-op will add 100 new fridges to the network of community fridge hubs, taking the total to 250. The partnership will save an expected 6.8 million meals a year from going to waste.
Community fridges are open to everyone. They provide a place where local residents can share and access surplus food donated by local food businesses. As well as reducing waste, many of the fridges also provide budgeting and healthy cooking advice, wellbeing and family support as well as digital inclusion training –empowering people to develop knowledge and skills that will enrich their lives.
Tackling food waste has long been one of our priorities. Through our recently launched ten-point climate plan, which is rooted in bold co-operative action, this partnership with Hubbub will enable us to empower communities to play their part in reducing food waste.
Recently I visited one of our Co-op Academies in Failsworth, where together with Hubbub, we launched one of our first fridges. It was great to see first-hand how the fridge will truly help the local community, and I’m excited to see more fridges roll out in the coming months.
I spoke to Tessa Tricks, who said:
The partnership with Co-op has given Hubbub a unique opportunity to expand its community fridge network at a greater scale and speed than would usually be possible. These fridges play a vital role in communities across the UK by not only providing access to good quality food while reducing food waste, but by bringing people together to share and learn from one another. In the past year, many of the fridges have provided a lifeline to families struggling as a result of the pandemic, and we’ve seen them turn into a place where people come together and learn to become resilient to whatever challenges are thrown at them. They really are more than just fridges.Tessa Tricks, Senior Creative Partner at Hubbub
Community resilience has never been so important, so I’m excited to see how this partnership grows and continues to positively impact the lives of people across the UK. And all of this would not have been possible without our wonderful members.
Every time our members buy Co-op branded products, 2p in every £1 spent is shared between Co-op’s Local Community Fund and our new Community Partnerships Fund, creating financial support for initiatives that will directly impact us all.
So, I’d like to extend a huge thank-you to our Co-op Members. Without you, this partnership simply wouldn’t have been possible. And to anyone intrigued about this new project, I urge you to find out more – see if you can find a community fridge hub in your area. Get involved, get chatting, spread the word! I think if this last year has taught us anything, it’s the power and value of community.