The Co-operative Group has today (30 August) announced it will trial a charity food donation scheme, as part of its pledge of ensuring all food that is fit to eat is given to local causes.

The retailer has launched the trial in the South East which will benefit 11 community groups through donations from seven Co-op stores in Chelmsford, Braintree, Watford (two stores) and Hemel Hampstead (three stores), including local causes, food banks, day centres and youth projects.

This year the Co-op will redistribute enough food to make one million meals. If successful, the convenience store retailer will look at whether the scheme could be rolled across its entire estate of 2,800 stores.

Steve Murrells, retail chief executive at the Co-op, said: “Our pledge to ensure any food fit to eat goes to the neediest is part of our aim to do business a better way to benefit the communities that we serve.

“We have been making great strides in food redistribution, and being able to provide food from our stores to local good causes is another big step forward. As a community retailer it was important to us to be able to support the groups where our stores are located, and this trial means we can achieve that goal.”

In October last year the Co-op rolled out a programme across its nine distribution centres to supply a range of chilled food items such as yoghurt, meat, fruit, vegetables and ready meals to the charity FareShare, which passes the food on to charities and community groups who transform it into meals for vulnerable people.

The Co-op also works with the Real Junk Food Project in Leeds, donating food from its stores to its Pay as You Feel cafes as well as to breakfast clubs at local schools.