A group of teenagers have inspired Sainsbury’s to introduce a new shelf labelling initiative in their stores to urge customers to consider donating ‘priority’ items to their local foodbanks.

From Friday 30th November, the supermarket will be displaying the new labels in more than 1,400 branches, including their North East stores, all year round, and as part of their ‘Help Brighten a Million Christmases’ campaign, which will also see signage signposting toy donations in their Argos outlets.

The idea was the brainchild of a team of 16 and 17 year olds taking part in National Citizen Service (NCS), which aims to build a more cohesive, mobile and engaged society. The group’s project helped their local foodbank, in Exeter, see donations from the local Sainsbury’s store treble.

Claudine Blamey, Sainsbury’s Group Head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, said: “It’s been brilliant to work with NCS graduates to permanently role out their fantastic label initiative to all our stores and help reach our target of one million donations.”

Michael Lynas, CEO at NCS Trust, said: “The first two phases of the NCS programme equip young people with the skills and confidence to make a difference, before we challenge them to design and deliver social action projects in phase three.

“We couldn’t be more proud of this group of young people for the impact their idea is set to have across the country.”

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North East teenagers taking part in the NCS programme have been volunteering their time to support their local foodbanks. Following time away at an outdoor centre and university-style accommodation, teenagers who take part in the NCS programme plan and deliver a social action project that benefits their local community.

Tina Lavelle, NCS Coordinator at East Durham College, said: “We invite East Durham Trust’s FEED project to visit our NCS groups to tell them about issues in our local area and why there is a need for a Foodbank, including stories of families who are newly unemployed and may not receive benefits for 6 weeks and have no means to buy food for their families. Summer holidays are a particularly difficult time for some families who often rely on school meals to feed their children.

“The visit from our local Foodbank is often an eye opener for the young people who are unaware of these issues. Young people then often decide that their social action projects will benefit local foodbanks.”

During the summer, a group of teenagers, taking part in NCS with Newcastle United Foundation, were inspired by an appeal the UK’s biggest foodbank had made. Newcastle West End Foodbank were running short on supplies so the youngsters stepped in to fundraise and collect 45 bags of food for the service.

And in the summer of 2017, another project assisted the Foodbank by revitalising the community space at their Benwell Lane base. The team tidied up the garden area and installed children’s play equipment. Watch more.

Participant Sydnee Smith said: “Coming to the Foodbank and seeing how many people were struggling to feed themselves and their families made me think ‘If I could help in any way possible, it changes their day.’

Teammate Will Ferguson said: “Some people come and get their food, but some people come and stay all day. One man stayed for six or seven hours drinking tea and coffee and talking to people who were coming in and out.

“For it to look nice and have facilities for the kids to use is really important.”

The priority items to be labelled in Sainsbury’s stores include: tinned meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, soup and baked beans; pasta; pasta sauces; rice; jams; coffee; tea; UHT milk; and long-life fruit juice.

Year 11 students can now book their own unmissable NCS experience. Taking place next summer, the programme includes time away at an outdoor adventure centre, a stay in university-style accommodation and the chance for teens to give back to their local community.

Visit NCSYES.co.uk or call 0191 247 4020 to find out more.