Co-op and Hubbub partner to redistribute 6.8 million meals a year in community fridge initiative

Co-op and environmental charity Hubbub have announced a major new partnership 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 Co-op donating surplus food from its stores.

As well as improving access to food, the fridges go beyond this by 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. 

This new partnership, will see the existing Community Fridge Network increase to 250 community 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 has been opened this week in Failsworth, Greater Manchester at the Co-op Academy. Following this, an impressive 15 new community fridges are 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.”

This is not the first time Co-op has helped to improve fairer access to food for everyone. Co-op played a vital role in Marcus Rashford’s Stop Child Poverty taskforce supporting his campaign for free school meals, leading the pack by funding over £3m of free school meal vouchers for Co-op academy students. Co-op also topped up the value of the government’s Healthy Start vouchers by adding £1 to every voucher spent and is continuing to do this after the recent government uplift, giving families access to more healthy and nutritious food.

Marcus Rashford MBE said: “The Co-op is a valuable founding member of the Child Food Poverty Taskforce and has consistently stepped up to the plate throughout the Global pandemic to support our most vulnerable families. They have demonstrated how community action can make real sustainable change and just how powerful we can be when we come together. Together with Hubbub, the Co-op has developed a programme that spans far beyond access to food and I’m so excited to see that my own community in Wythenshawe will benefit.”

Tessa Tricks, Senior Creative Partner at Hubbub, 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 have seen the fridges turn into a place where people come together and support each other to tackle whatever challenges are thrown at them. They really are more than just a fridge.”

The new funding will provide 100 £4,000 grants to support community fridge organisers with running costs such as volunteer expenses, insurance and cleaning materials. Co-op will also invest in the development of the Hubbub and the Community Fridge Network, to offer support to previously established fridges and other organisations that host community fridges.

For more information on The Community Fridge Network, including a map of fridge locations and advice for those interested in setting up a community fridge, visit: www.hubbub.org.uk/the-community-fridge

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