Co-op has announced its support for Marcus Rashford’s new Food Insecurity Taskforce, as the convenience retailer became one of the first organisations to sign up to the campaign.
The taskforce, created by the England International and Manchester United striker, aims to challenge the government to commit to significant policy changes to help tackle the alarming and growing issue of food insecurity in the UK today.
Co-op and Marcus first joined forces to help tackle the issue back in June when the footballer starred in the retailer’s television advert helping to raise funds for the food charity FareShare, who is also part of the new taskforce and with whom Co-op and Rashford both have a longstanding partnership.
Marcus Rashford said: “As a sportsman, I have always found such power in unity and teamwork, and I’m thrilled that such influential voices, such as Co-op, have put any allegiance aside to join me on my mission to move the conversation of child food insecurity forward. 4.2 million children are currently living in poverty in the UK and this is expected to rise; the Task Force stand in solidarity to offer these vulnerable children the platform they need to have their voices heard. I encourage everyone to stop and listen.
“The time for action is now. I’m proud and I’m humbled to see such a reaction and commitment from the food industry, and I am confident that together we can help change the lives of those most at risk for the better.”
What stands Co-op apart from the crowd on this issue, is its unique position as the largest corporate sponsor of academy schools in England through the Co-op Academies Trust, where it sees first-hand the effects lack of food can have on the young. The Co-op Academy Trust runs 25 schools, providing primary and secondary education for over 15,000 kids in some of the most deprived areas of north of England. In one of the Co-op Academy Trust schools, 67% of pupils qualify for free school meals, with an average of 32% across the Co-op schools, versus a national average of 12%. Whilst the Co-op Academy Trust schools were closed due to Covid19, Co-op continued to fund and provide free schools meal vouchers for all qualifying pupils, including during the Easter and Summer school holidays, making the commitment significantly ahead of the Government announcing anything similar for other state schools.
The community retailer, its customers and members have donated over £5.5 million and provided emergency food support to enable five million meals to be shared during the pandemic, and Co-op was one of only two national grocery business to announce their support for the proposed increase for the Government Healthy Start Voucher scheme in July this year.
Jo Whitfield, Food CEO, Co-op said: “It’s heart-breaking to think of children in the UK going hungry and we are determined to do everything we can to support those who are most vulnerable in the communities we serve. We’ve worked with Marcus before and seen the amazing dedication he gives to the serious issue of food insecurity which, as a local community retailer, Co-op also has an important role in supporting. Along with our customers and members we’ve donated millions of pounds and provided emergency food support to enable over five million meals to be shared during the pandemic. We have already committed our support to increase the Healthy Start scheme, but much more is needed for a longer- term, sustainable solution.
She continued: “We’re delighted to be able to join Marcus and the other taskforce members for this important campaign where a little co-operation by many, can make a big difference to support those who are struggling. We’re focused and unwavering in our support to co-operate and to get food to those in our communities who are most in need.”