Co-op community champion receives recognition after going above and beyond during retailer’s pandemic response

A community hero at Central England Co-op who helped to lead a project to deliver vital food to the vulnerable at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic has received special recognition for his efforts.

James Knight, Member and Community Relations Officer at Central England Co-op, managed a ground-breaking project launched at the onset of the pandemic working in collaboration with councils and community organisations across the Midlands.

In less than three months, the community hubs project helped over 1,800 people identified by partners in Lichfield, Burton, Derby, Stafford and Leicester and then supported by the retailer with the creation and delivery of vital food packages from stores in the area.

James has now been given a Special Contribution Award at the Central England Co-op Leading Brilliance Awards, which aimed to recognise the incredible efforts of the retailer’s 7,750 colleagues who have gone above and beyond for their communities in these uncertain times.

James was praised by judges at the virtual ceremony for his ‘leadership, teamwork and true co-operative spirit to help those in need’.

James said: “It was a really nice surprise. The community hubs project was a massive team effort but I’m very honoured to receive this award on behalf of everyone who worked on it.

“The whole project was a brilliant example of people and organisations working together to support vulnerable people to get food quickly at a time of great need and challenge.

“It is nice that other people see the work which I and my fellow Member and Community Relations Officers do. It is was our job, but we do sometimes go above and beyond, and it was nice that people see the importance of the different work we do to support our communities.

“I’m proud that I work for an organisation that enabled us to do something like that. It was solely about helping the community in a time of need and making sure the vulnerable members of our community got supported.

“For us it wasn’t just about getting the food out to people we were also taking calls and spending a few minutes chatting to people as sometimes we might have been the only person they spoke to that week.”

While the community hubs project finished in the summer, Central England Co-op launched a Call and Collect Service for members, although this is currently open to non-members as well while lockdown restrictions are in place.

The service sees users call a dedicated number and place their order, their local store will then pick and pack the order that day before having ready to be collected in the afternoon the day after.

The user or a nominated person can then visit the store and collect the shopping. Payment for the food and essentials are taken over the phone from the retailer’s head office.

Items available to order include everything from fresh food to cupboard essentials.

James encouraged those who need support with getting their shopping in these challenging times to take advantage of the Call and Collect scheme.

He said: “It is a brilliant service and it is simple and easy to use and can be a lifeline, particularly for vulnerable members of the community. I know many we helped in the community hubs project have found it to be of huge help.”

Full details, including the items which can be ordered, is available online at


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.

Co-operatives have always been there for their communities; they were formed to protect them and help them flourish.  

Our 7,900 colleagues who serve Members and customers work hard to ensure that co-operative values, principles and spirit flow through everything we do to help support and improve our local communities.

Owned by hundreds of thousands of Members, we have over 430 trading outlets across 16 counties including West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. 

We are proud of our reputation for ethical business practices and corporate responsibility.

We invest a percentage of our trading profit into local communities through our Community Dividend Fund scheme, have donated over £1.4 million to our corporate charity partner Dementia UK and also operate a pioneering food redistribution partnership with FareShare Midlands so unsold food goes to those in need.

Visit for more information or follow us on Facebook or Twitter using @mycoopfood

Press office contacts: Rob Smyth and James Brindle

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