The Co-op is launching a new wide-reaching food redistribution scheme this week, supporting 2,500 good causes in towns and villages in postal areas where it has stores.

The scheme is expected to redistribute enough food for 20 million meals, the largest number of beneficiaries of any scheme operated by a UK convenience retailer.

Co-op food stores will donate up to 8,500 tonnes of food a year as the scheme rolls out, after successful initial trials in 60 stores across the UK.

Jo Whitfield, interim retail chief executive at The Co-op, said: “Each of our stores will team up with local charities and good causes in their area, ensuring food donated from our stores directly benefits the communities in which we work. The food will be collected on a regular basis, helping those closest to home.

“Not only will this support local groups, but it will also dramatically reduce our food waste, as we work towards our ambition that no food fit for consumption goes to waste.”

The Co-op also works with FareShare to redistribute food from depots and last year redistributed enough food to make more than one million meals, helping over a thousand local groups and charities.