Co-op partners with The Real Junk Food Project to cut food waste

The Co-op has announced that it has started a new partnership with food redistribution scheme The Real Junk Food Project, in a bid to reduce its food waste output while tackling hunger in Leeds.

The supermarket, which recently moved to stop ‘last-minute’ sales of fresh produce as it strives to reduce the volume of edible food going to waste in its stores, will be sending these products from nine of its Leeds-based stores to the charity as part of the partnership.

The food will then be redistributed through The Real Junk Food Project’s networks of partner charities, schools and “Pay As You Feel” ‘sharehouses’ – where customers pay what they can with either money or time to help cover the costs of intercepting and redistributing the products.

Since it launched in 2013, The Real Junk Food Project claims it has diverted more than one million kilograms of edible food from landfill annually, through such initiatives, feeding more than 44,000 people in the process.

“We’re determined to call time on food waste and by launching a scheme that gives charities great quality, fresh and baked produce, we are hoping to get delicious meals to those who need them most,” Co-op’s area manager for Leeds, Joe Scoot said.

Share and share alike

The new partnership forms part of the Co-op’s own food redistribution scheme, Food Share, which is undergoing a phased rollout across the supermarket’s 2,500 retail outlets, following a successful trial in 50 of its stores.  

When the scheme first launched, Co-op’s chief executive Steve Murrells said the company operated on the belief that any food which goes unsold “should end up feeding people, wherever possible”, and that all employees should work hard to tackle waste in store.

The launch of Food Share came after food redistribution platforms like The Real Junk Food Project told food and drink retailers that they are often “inundated” with bakery items and canned goods but lacking in donations of fresh food needed to make nutritious meals and snacks.

Notably, London-based hunger relief organisation City Harvest previously called on supermarkets to create a “flexible system” that allows charities access to surplus meat, salads and fruit and vegetables as Britain’s hunger problems – and food waste mountain – continue to grow.

Sustainable shopping

Food Share builds on the Co-op’s existing commitments to tackle food waste issues. The chain has been working with charity FareShare to redistribute food from its depots since 2013 and estimates this partnership has provided enough food for more than three million meals.

The supermarket is also a signatory of WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment 2025, and last year launched a scheme that allows shoppers to purchase tinned and dried food items past their best-before date for as little as 10p.

Tackling waste at Responsible Retail 2018

Minimising waste – both in-store and at a supply chain level-  is one of the key themes running throughout edie’s upcoming Responsible Retail 2018 conference, taking place on 20 September in London.

The full-day event has been designed for the retailers, sustainability professionals and key stakeholders that are looking for the information, insight and inspiration required to seize the sustainability opportunity.

Find out more about Responsible Retail 2018 and register to attend here.

Sarah George

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