Co-operation is key during COVID-19 pandemic

A local co-operative is asking residents to keep up the ‘incredible’ support for its colleagues and the community as the encouragement has been vital in lifting spirits during the pandemic.

Rainbows drawn by local children cover the windows of many Southern Co-op stores and messages of thanks have been shared with both its retail and funeralcare colleagues.

With the pandemic affecting the lives of thousands of people, these small actions are making a difference and helping Southern Co-op colleagues to continue caring for the bereaved and putting food on the shelves to keep our communities fed.

Mark Smith, Chief Executive of Southern Co-op, said: “When the outbreak first hit, we put out a plea to customers and members to shop responsibly, observe social distancing measures and help us to support our communities.

“We would like to say a big thank you to our members and customers who’ve done this. I’d also like to thank our colleagues for their hard work throughout, under very challenging circumstances. I’ve been especially impressed with their collective commitment, energy and how they have risen to the challenge.

“Initially we experienced panic buying which affected all retailers as the distribution network struggled to keep pace. Thankfully the situation has improved and we are working with our suppliers, distribution centres and colleagues to ensure this continues.”

In order to support Southern Co-op’s 250 food stores, funeral homes and crematoria across the south of England, the independent co-operative has recruited and trained 348 extra colleagues.

It has also fitted more than 700 protective till screens, installed 9,000 social distancing floor markings, established a dedicated daily shopping hour for the vulnerable, and offered all NHS and social care workers a 10% discount.

For its frontline teams, it has offered a special recognition scheme with a bonus for eligible retail and funeralcare colleagues.

Gemma Lacey, Director of Sustainability and Communications at Southern Co-op, said: “The response from our communities and colleagues has been really incredible during the pandemic.

“It is vital that we help those who are more vulnerable in our communities and that our support for charities and community groups extends beyond this critical time to help these organisations sustain their important work both now and in the future.

“Our colleagues have been creative in finding ways to support our communities for example collecting fabric for Guys Marsh prison who are making scrubs for their local NHS, providing resources such as word searches and colouring pages for children, and encouraging expression through art, which has been displayed in our sites windows. So please help us to keep the momentum going on this.

“For those that want to do a bit more, we would also invite people to support our FareShare campaign which is fighting hunger and food waste through the distribution of food to charities in our region.”

Southern Co-op has donated £50,000 to FareShare, the UK’s largest hunger fighting charity, to support the distribution of food to charities in the south. To help make a bigger impact, customers are being invited to add to this donation.

For every £1 donated, FareShare (registered charity number 1100051) is able to redistribute four meals so a £5 donation equals 20 meals to vulnerable people.

  • Text ‘SOUTH’ to 70490 to donate £5 to FareShare – texts cost £5 plus your standard network rate (T&Cs are available on Southern Co-op’s website)
  • Donate in store – make your donation at the till point when shopping in one of our food stores (
  • Go online – make a donation via!/

In order to help other community groups in the south that have been affected by COVID-19, Southern Co-op also donated £40,000 to the Neighbourly Community Fund which is providing micro-grants of up to £400. Grants are awarded to good causes in the UK and Ireland whose work involves supporting members of the community suffering with loss of income, isolation or ill health as a result of the outbreak.

A further £10,000 has been donated to the National Emergency Trust which is channelling support into charities dealing with the immediate community impacts of COVID-19.

Steve Pearce​, Chief Operating Officer for End of Life Services at Southern Co-op, said: “With people being isolated in their homes and the devastating affect COVID-19 is having across the country, we would also like to remind people that our Bereavement Centre is available for support and counselling services.

“The Bereavement Centre has been supporting people over the phone and running support groups digitally during the pandemic. Its services are free and available to everyone across Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Sussex and select areas of Berkshire, Dorset, Surrey and Wiltshire.

“The team has been doing an incredible job supporting people emotionally including healthcare workers. The centre has also created new workshops around mental health, resilience and mindfulness which are free for all healthcare workers.”

To find out more about The Bereavement Centre, visit

For more information on how Southern Co-op responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit

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