The Co-op has partnered with environmental charity Hubbub to fast-track the expansion of community fridges across the UK.
Community fridges are open to everyone in communities - without any need to be referred or having to prove eligibility - to share fresh food that would otherwise have gone to waste. The food is donated by businesses, with the Co-op set to donate surplus food from its stores.
As well as improving access to food, the fridges are described as empowering communities to connect with each other, and learn new skills through activities such as cookery sessions and workshops on how to grow your own fruit and veg.
The new partnership will see the existing Community Fridge Network increase to 250 fridges over the next year, saving a further 6.8 million meals per year from going to waste. The move builds on the success of the existing 150 fridges in the network, which redistribute an average of almost 6,000 meals per fridge each month.
One of the first fridges of the new partnership was opened this week in Failsworth, Greater Manchester at the Co-op Academy. A further 15 new community fridges are also set to open their doors this month, including one in Wythenshawe, South Manchester – the home turf of Marcus Rashford, who has backed the partnership.
Steve Murrells, Co-op Group chief executive officer, said: “Thanks to our members and customers, we’re delighted to be partnering with Hubbub on such an innovative scheme bringing communities together, empowering people towards community-led food solutions that will help to build community resilience.
“As a co-operative, we recognise our responsibility to make a genuine difference and have already made a number of interventions to help tackle food poverty and create fairer access to food, through our food share partnerships and our donations to Fareshare.
“However, our work in our local communities has shown us that to really make a sustainable difference we need to co-operate with others to build the resilience needed for the future.”