Central England Co-op volunteers help to provide hundreds of meals to help fight holiday hunger in Leicester

Posted by james brindle | Published: 27/08/2021

Retailer Central England Co-op has finished a summer of support for a vital project in Leicester ensuring at risk youngsters were fed and able to keep active during the school holidays.

The project run by the charity St Matthews Big Local has seen around 100 children in the city take part in a programme of healthy activities over the last four weeks to keep them fit but also ensure they can enjoy a hot meal during the school holidays.

Store colleagues and members from Central England Co-op joined the staff from St Matthews to volunteer across the summer to help provide the meals and support the activities.

Almost 500 meals were provided over the course of the project with the generous volunteers from the retailer giving up their time every day of the four weeks.

Simon Johnson, Charity Manager at St Matthews Big Local, explained why the summer holiday programme had been so important and gave his thanks to the volunteers from Central England Co-op.

He said: “St Matthews Big Local is passionate about making positive change in our community. Over 500 children under the age of 15 in our community are living in poverty. This year, the government funded the Holiday Activity and Food Programme (HAF).

“The programme ran for four weeks over four days and for four hours each day. We were pleased to play our part in delivering healthy activities each day with a meal to the 100 children who registered for the programme. All of the children were either on free school meals or living in an area of deprivation.

“Our organisation has a small staff team of just five part-time staff so we approached our friends at Central England Co-op to see if they could support us again with the preparation of food and the associated clearing.

“As in previous years, they agreed to help without hesitation. A rota of staff was provided with two Co-op colleagues volunteering every day of the four weeks - a massive 128 volunteering hours.

“We always love working with staff from the Central England Co-op as they all have such a can do attitude - they come into the building and just get one with the job in hand with little supervision. “They have a great understanding of food safety, and they are all such a friendly bunch. Some have even signed up to help us with events next year.”

Karen Bevan, Member and Community Relations Officer at Central England Co-op, organised the retailer’s support and volunteered herself during the summer.

She said: “It has been really rewarding for myself, the store colleagues and members of our Southern Membership and Community Council to do our bit by helping to make lunches for children accessing this vital programme run by St Matthews Big Local.

“We have a great relationship with Simon and the team and, after supporting in 2019, were disappointed not to be able to be involved last year because of the pandemic. However, this is something we aim to help with every year.”

To become a member of Central England Co-op, visit https://membership.centralengland.coop/


Notes to editors

About Central England Co-operative

Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK with interests in food, funeral, floral and property investment.

Owned by hundreds of thousands of members, its over 7,800 colleagues serve customers across 400 plus trading sites in 16 counties in the East and West Midlands, Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Its purpose is to inspire communities to create a sustainable Society for all.

It actively campaigns for the Government to increase sentencing for violent attacks on retail workers and works with FareShare Midlands and hundreds of food banks, generating enough food donations to create over 2.1 million meals for people in need.

The Society embraces inclusivity and equality and is a signed-up member to the Business in the Community (BITC) Race at Work Charter, while it is also fully committed to addressing the impact of climate change and is on track to be Carbon Neutral by 2030. 

It invests a percentage of its trading profit into local communities through its Community Dividend Fund scheme which has seen over £175,000 shared out between 116 good causes over the past 12 months.

Central England Co-op was named Leading Co-op of the Year by Co-operatives UK in 2021.

Press office contacts: Rob Smyth and James Brindle

Phone - 01543 421390

Email - publicrelations@centralengland.coop