This article first appeared in The Australian newspaper on Monday 29 March 2021.

Australia produces more food than it consumes but when the pandemic hit communities last year, many Australians became focused on stockpiling groceries to see them through the lockdowns.

Our big supermarkets came under pressure to supply essentials and ensure shoppers — especially older or vulnerable shoppers — had safe access to stores.

For Coles, the coronavirus was a time to step up. CEO Steve Cain said: “Since the COVID pandemic began, Coles has proudly embraced our role as an essential service to the community, guided by our purpose to sustainably feed all Australians and help them lead healthier and happier lives. Throughout every challenge, our values of working with passion, pace and responsibility to the community were at the heart of our decision-making.”

The company’s work has won it a place on the shortlist for the Business Council of Australia’s awards, The Biggies, which recognise people and companies that made a significant contribution to civic life last year. Coles is one of seven finalists in the Big Impact category. There are four individual finalists in the Big Heart category.

From mid-March last year, Coles began donating extra food and groceries to a retail value of $1m a week to food banks to help Australians facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus. Food relief organisations in turn distributed the food to up to 3800 community food programs across Australia.