Baby feeding from a bottle

The impact of the Covid pandemic has served to highlight so many of the existing inequalities in our country, but perhaps none more so than the food insecurity which has plagued individuals, families and communities for too long.

Whilst many have struggled over recent years and long depended on foodbanks, the financial impact of the pandemic has also plunged others into food insecurity for the first time, for instance, and the forced closures of schools left young pupils without free school meals and going to bed hungry.

We’ve seen the incredible campaign by Marcus Rashford to raise awareness of this plight and call for greater support for those at risk – particularly children – and I’m proud Central England Co-operative have stepped up once again during this pandemic to offer our support.

Healthy Start vouchers help give families the best start in life, and Central England Co-op will give all those who use them an extra £1 to spend on vital food and essentials.

This means that those who use the vouchers will see their allowance rise from £3.10 to £4.10 in our stores, to cover the period between now and the Government’s uplift in April.

And when that uplift comes, we’ll continue the scheme – so that people using their Healthy Start Vouchers in Central England Co-ops will have an allowance of £5.25.

But we won’t just be giving those people who currently use the vouchers a greater allowance; we want to see more people taking it up, too. Currently in some areas as many as 50% of eligible families are missing out, so we’ll also be working to raise awareness and ensure greater uptake by others of the scheme.

This isn’t just the right thing to do, but it speaks to the very core of who we are and the co-operative values we hold. Serving our communities who depend on us, helping those who may be vulnerable, and giving people the tools and essentials they need to look after themselves and get on in life.

In so many ways these co-operative values and our movement have come to the fore during this crisis and offered the solutions and support we need to recover.

I’m delighted Central England Co-operative are at the forefront of this, and helping lead the way in our efforts to tackle food insecurity.