The Co-operative’s Food Share Initiative

It has been estimated that homes across the UK throw away approximately 6.7 million tonnes of food each year. Most ends up in landfill sites, where its decomposition releases the greenhouse gas methane. When talking about food waste, the most frequently given figure puts the amount at one third. So for example one third of the contents of an average British fridge ends up in landfill.

Recently The Guardian (20.08.18) revealed new research which warns food loss is set to increase by a third by 2030 unless urgent action is taken. The report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) warns that the global response to food waste is fragmented and inadequate, and that the problem is growing at an alarming rate. While in developing countries waste occurs during production processes, in wealthy countries waste is mostly driven by retailers and consumers, who throw away food because they have purchased too much or because it does not meet aesthetic standards.

Companies have experimented with waste reduction initiatives, such as Tesco’s buy one get one free pilot, which allows customers to pick up their free product when they actually need it. But the report stated such efforts do not go far enough. The creation of an ecolabel could encourage companies to work harder.

Another option, which the Co-op has now set up, is a Food Share initiative. The scheme was unveiled earlier in the year by Co-op CEO Steve Murrells. He said: “It’s unbelievable that over a third of the food produced around the world goes to waste. We’re calling time on food waste and will take products off sale earlier to get fresh food with its use-by date to charities in time for them to cook or freeze. At the Co-op we want to strengthen and support communities and we are committed to tackling food waste and ensuring food gets into the hands of those who need it most.We work hard to reduce waste but believe any food that we don’t sell should end up feeding people, wherever possible.”

What is Co-op Food Share?
Co-op Food Share is a new, national food redistribution programme that enables stores to donate good quality food directly to local community groups.As a part of running busy shops, there’s usually some food that isn’t sold to customers at the end of each day. This food can be offered for free to approved partners that can put it to good use feeding people in the community.

Who is eligible?

To become a Food Share Partner organisations must:
• Commit to collecting fresh food from stores regularly and reliably
• Use food donations to feed people in the community
• Be a not-for-profit organisation
• Be registered as a food premise with the local authority

What food can I expect?

The food you can get will vary depending on what’s available on the day.
Approved partners can collect all of the store’s surplus food before its expiry date in the evening (within 2 hours of closing time). Evening donations will typically be bakery, fruit and veg and also some fresh meat and chilled products. If you can’t get to stores in the evening, following day collections will include products that are in good condition and carry a “best before” date including bakery fruit and veg and occasionally some longer life tins, packets and bottled products.

How can I apply to be a partner?

To apply to become a partner, go to the Coop website where there is another link to our application form. The form is really easy to complete and asks a few details about your organisation and what the food will be used for. Following submission of the form we will be in touch, usually within a month, to let you know if your application has been approved. Once approved, someone from your matched store will contact you to arrange a meeting in store to kick off the relationship and arrange future collection times.

The Voice got in touch with Mark Harwood from the Brodick Co-Op to find out more about the scheme and how it could work in Arran. He told the Voice, “We’ve got a policy to reduce waste, which can be started here in Arran straight away. The scheme is working in some areas of the country already, and in other places it’s not. Waste reduction is a popular cause now, and it ties in the with issue of plastic packaging in supermarkets too. The justification for plastic is that it increases shelf life and reduces waste, but if the produce was going to be eaten at the end of the day anyway, there is less need for plastic in the first place.”

Mark recommends anyone who is part of a community organisation or charity and thinks they may be able to apply or get involved, to follow the steps on the website link or get in touch with him at the Brodick Co-op for more details and advice.