After the successful launch of Sheffield’s Local Food Action Plan in June, ShefFood has been on the hunt to add to its roster of organisations committed to a more sustainable food system in the city. The latest signature has come from the Co-op supermarket chain. With over 20 in Sheffield and the surrounding areas, seeing a big chain become part of this vital change in Sheffield’s food industry is fantastic. While they may be new to ShefFood’s growing list of partners, they already have some excellent programmes focused on health and fairness in our communities.
What is the charter?
Sheffield’s Food Charter sets out the vision that when the food system works for People and for Planet, it brings communities together; makes us all happier and healthier; and develops local economies for both today and tomorrow. The charter has four key points:
- Makes sure everyone in Sheffield has, by default, access to healthy, sustainable and affordable food.
- Uses the power of good food to bring people together, creating cohesive communities through celebrating experiences and sharing knowledge.
- Encourages a diverse and vibrant food economy that promotes and prioritises local producers, boosts the local economy and treats customers, workers and nature well.
- Develop resilient practices from farm to fork and beyond, which reduce emissions and waste levels to feed tomorrow as well as today.
Anyone in the city can sign the charter and make a pledge from individuals to businesses, community groups and university institutions. The Co-op has pledged to these actions within the charter:
- Use the power of food to bring people together through Co-op local community fund.
- Make ‘good food’ available to EVERYONE, regardless of circumstance.
- Take steps to reduce food waste and redistribute surplus food through Co-op Caboodle.
But, as you’ll see, Co-op is already making great efforts in all three areas.
Modern-Day Pioneers of Community Action
The Co-op’s history is rooted in feeding the poor. The Rochdale Pioneers, which formed in 1844, were the predecessor of the modern supermarket and the inspiration for countless co-operatives in the UK, They were a group of tradesmen that banded together to open their own store selling food items they could not normally afford, ensuring affordable prices and access to food for their families. This heritage continues today through its member pioneers and the local community fund.
Member Pioneers are the Co-op’s link to local communities. Their role is to engage with community groups, charities and Co-op Members with a number of resources at their disposal to support groups in these four areas.
- Fair access to food
- Fair access to mental and physical well-being support
- Opportunities for young people
- Tackling climate change.
There are approximately 900 Member Pioneers across the country, with a team of 10 in the Sheffield and Rotherham area. Each Member Pioneer is responsible for a particular area where they engage with the local groups within this community and address the particular needs of the local residents. The Member Pioneers can also direct people to the community donations policy of the Local Community fund. This fund, which is raised through Co-op members (2p of every £1 going into this pot), can provide organisations with a one-off £150 to help with their activities.
Action in Sheffield
The Co-op has also created a major new platform to help reduce food waste called Caboodle. This not-for-profit digital platform enables supermarkets, cafés and restaurants to connect with community groups and volunteers to redistribute surplus food. Caboodle aims to create a single place where food retailers and businesses across the hospitality sector can connect with volunteers and community groups in every city, town and village in the UK, helping to share food when and where it is needed. The Co-op successfully trialled it throughout the UK and rolled it out to over 2,500 stores last year, including here in Sheffield. Here is a little about just one of those successes
When Debbie Roberts, Member Pioneer for North Sheffield, met Angela Woodward from SOAR (A community regeneration charity that provides services to improve a person’s health, well-being and employability.), they would not have believed that in little over a year, they would help create a phenomenal community asset. They met in 2020 to talk about how to support Chapeltown and High Green during the pandemic. The solution revealed itself when Hubbub and Co-op launched funding to get Community Fridges off the ground, and Debbie suggested to Angela that Chapelgreen would be an ideal location.
Since opening in January 2022, Chapelgreen Community Fridge, supported by local Co-op Food stores at Chapeltown Bevan Way, High Green, Ecclesfield, Southey Green, has helped nearly 50 families each week and saved mountains of food destined for landfill. Donations through the Hubbub partnership, Caboodle food sharing and support through Local Community Fund have meant that Chapelgreen Community Fridge has grown from strength to strength.
It has grown so much that it moved to a new, much larger room at High Green Development Trust on 19 November. Now, nearly 500kg of food destined for landfill is donated by local food stores each week, enabling volunteers to help local families access fresh fruit and veg, bread, store cupboard items and chilled and frozen food. ‘The new room is fantastic and means we can look to the future’, said Angela ‘We have been very lucky to receive so much support from Co-op’. The team at Chapelgreen have also used their experience to support other new local Community Fridges.
It’s great to hear about the success stories of real action in our neighbourhoods. With the cost of living continuing to blight people’s health, finances and safety, it’s inspiring to see what can be achieved with coordination with organisations like the Co-op in our communities.
To find your local Member Pioneer, please visit the Contact your Local Co-op member pioneer page on the Co-op website (coop.co.uk) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.