Sainsbury’s has announced this morning that it will further encourage customers to include food bank donations in their weekly shops by introducing a brand new labelling system to help consumers identify which products are needed most. The ‘Help Brighten A Million Christmases’ campaign aims to attract £1m worth of donations before Christmas and will become the largest scheme to combat food poverty in the country. Dedicated shelf edge labels have been designed to indicate the products that will be donated to local food banks around the country.

The retail grocery chain, which is currently the second largest in the UK, trialled this system at a select number of stores across the country and found that donations increased three-fold when customers knew what was desperately needed by the food banks. Customers visiting any of the 1,400 stores Sainsbury’s operate nationwide will be invited to include priority items in their shopping. These include tinned fish, meat and vegetables, UHT milk and other non-perishable items, and can be donated at the check-out. This commitment is being pushed by top-level executives and the company’s CEO, as well as with socially conscious employees in local branches.

Though Sainsbury’s has consistently supported food banks across the country, it hopes that this new scheme will expand its current operation and encourage long-term donations by its regular customers. The company are also hoping that retail staff will be instrumental to the campaign’s success, by encouraging customers at the check-out to purchase extra food bank products.

Sainsbury’s will not be the only company encouraging customers to donate to those less fortunate this Christmas season; Argos, its sister company, is rolling out a toy donation scheme as well.

Food banks have been steadily growing in numbers since the introduction of austerity measures to combat the damage of the 2008 recession. The Conservative government under David Cameron was routinely criticised for enforcing policies that hurt the poorest in society, and many families have been forced to turn to food banks to survive. As of April this year, food banks were at an all-time high, with 1.3 million emergency parcels being delivered around the UK – up 13% from the previous year.