Making a difference

Making a difference

Community: Food for all

Helping everyone put good food on the table is at the heart of what we do. We spoke with two fantastic local causes who are making their communities stronger with food-based initiatives


Jody Beswick (above) is the West Midlands regional food manager of FoodCycle, a charity working to tackle food poverty, save surplus food and prevent loneliness. 

‘FoodCycle works to a really simple formula,’ explains Jody. ‘We collect surplus food from local stores, including Co-op, that would otherwise go to waste. We find venues with underused commercial-style kitchens, and we train volunteers to cook up that food into a three-course meal, which we serve to the local community. 

The food is important, but so is the social side. Food brings people together. You can really see the difference our meals make in people’s lives

‘We focus on areas where there’s a need for more healthy food, and anyone can drop in, sit down, have a meal and a chat. The meal lasts about an hour and a half, and it gets the conversations flowing!’

To help make sure everyone can enjoy the meals, all the dishes are vegetarian. Avoiding food waste is another important factor. ‘We all work to ensure food goes in bellies, not bins,’ says Jody. ‘If there’s anything we can’t use in our community meals, we give our guests a food parcel to take away. And things like veggie peelings are often taken for composting by volunteers with allotments.’

FoodCycle is one of 4,500 Local Community Fund causes that Co-op Members are supporting by shopping at Co-op (see ‘Support a local cause’, below). Help from Co-op Member Pioneer Pete Nash has also been key in growing the number of FoodCycle projects in the region from two to six. ‘Pete is a huge supporter,’ says Jody, ‘helping us out with surplus food, giving us contacts for Co-ops in the area. He even arrived with Christmas crackers for last year’s Boxing Day meal!’


When Carrie Valance (pictured above) set up Food Troops CIC in 2019, her main goal was to get children more interested in eating veg, through cooking classes. Since then, it’s grown to include supplying her local community in Redruth, Cornwall, with food parcels during the pandemic, setting up a community fridge using food donations from Co-op and other local stores, and a volunteer-run kitchen garden. 

‘My aim is to help people help themselves, by enabling them to make their own food and to learn the skills of saving money around food,’ explains Carrie.

My aim is to help people help themselves, by enabling them to make their own food and learn the skills of saving money around food

‘Food is a fundamental human right. I want to support that by providing cookery classes and food education,’ she says. ‘We’re teaching things like pre-planning meals and reducing food waste. Knowing how to make food last longer, good storage and understanding the difference between a use-by date and a best-before date are really important, too. And we’re very keen to get children involved in cooking, which can improve their perceptions of food and their diet in general.’

Food Troops is one of Co-op’s Local Community Fund causes this year, as well as receiving surplus food from local Co-op stores for its community fridge. ‘We’ve been working with Co-op for about a year now, and by this spring we’re planning to take food donations four days a week,’ says Carrie. ‘We use the food for cook-ups and to give out through our community fridge. The plan is to base our cooking classes on food that we harvest from our garden outside.’  

One of the best parts for Carrie, a mum of four herself, is seeing children discovering vegetables. ‘We had a recipe for making sugar-free vegan cakes out of beetroot,’ she says. ‘They ended up eating the whole lot, and from then on they were saying they loved beetroot! That was just something they would never have imagined before.’

Find out more about Co-op Member Pioneers at


By becoming a Co-op Member, you can improve a community’s access to food every time you shop. Being a member means 2p for every £1 you spend on selected Co-op branded products and services is split between national community organisations and your choice of a Local Community Fund cause — plus another 2p back to you. You’ll also get exclusive personalised offers and deals instore and online. Scan the QR code to download the app and join us today! And if you’re already a member, just sign in and select your local cause.

The amount raised and given to local causes has been generated from the amount our members earn for local causes when they buy selected Co-op branded products and services from selected Co-op Group businesses. Not available in independent societies including Midcounties, Central England, Southern or Chelmsford Star co-operatives or in non-Co-op branded stores (eg, Nisa and Costcutter). Exclusions and restrictions apply. See membership terms and conditions on the Co-op app, at or by calling 0800 023 4708. Costs £1 to become a member.