The Southern Co-operative has contributed £5,000 and signed a three-year agreement with Chichester College to work together on boosting the local food and drink industry in Sussex.

At a ceremony at the Brinsbury Campus of Chichester College, Principal Shelagh Legrave and Chief Executive of The Southern Co-operative, Mark Smith, agreed to work together through the Centre of Excellence for Regional Food & Drink, opened earlier this year.

“As an independent co-operative with stores only in the South of England, we seek to offer a genuine regional alternative to national food retailers. As part of this we are committed to supporting local food and drink producers wherever we can and we will be investigating the feasibility of setting up a regional food hub to assist with local produce distribution,” said Mark Smith, CEO of The Southern Co-operative.

“The college has created a great concept in the Centre of Excellence and I am sure there is much that we will be able to do together to build on this to the benefit of the whole local food sector in Sussex.”

Cllr Roger Paterson, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Horsham District Council and Governor of the college, attended the ceremony, lending his support to the scheme.

“We have a thriving food and drink industry in Sussex and we want to do everything we can to support Brinsbury’s new Centre of Excellence For Local Food & Drink, and to promote the skills training it provides for both its students and the region’s food and drink community. It’s also great to be working with The Southern Co-operative, which has such strong environmental and community principles.”

Said Shelagh Legrave, Principal of Chichester College, “We created the Centre of Excellence for Regional Food and Drink to help bring together and provide special support for the industry and are already providing unique networking and experience sharing opportunities, supported by well-known regional food industry expert Hilary Knight.”

“Working with The Southern Co-operative, we also want to focus on developing vocational training, both for our own students and for adults already working in the industry and we are very excited to be moving forward together on this today.”

Food produced in Sussex is already available at selected Southern co-operative stores in Sussex and will be featured in a new store development in Hove opening in December.