Cutting back on wasted food has been one supermarket chain's big aim for a number of years and now it is putting even more money towards the cause.

Countdown will give up to $120,000 to charities who work in the food rescue industry - groups which provide safe, unsold and unused food to Kiwis in need all around the country.

The grants are given under the Countdown Food Rescue Partners Contestable Fund programme, launched by the chain last year. Applications for this year's funds are now open.

Recipients are able to use the grants, which vary from charity to charity, to purchase much needed equipment to help their cause. Last year, the winners used them to purchase equipment such as freezers, chillers, kitchen gear and a van.

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Last year's winners were Love Soup Hibiscus Coast, KiwiHarvest Auckland, Kaivolution, The Salvation Army, Kaibosh Food Rescue, Good Neighbour and Fair Food NZ.

Countdown spokeswoman Kate Porter said they partnered with a number of passionate food rescue groups, but acknowledged that there was limited funding available to the sector.

"As part of our commitment towards zero food waste, we want to help play our part so they can build their capacity and increase their ability to rescue food,'' she said.

"We've seen first-hand the difference a new vehicle or walk-in chiller can make to enable an organisation to collect more food or provide more food to people in need.''

The new programme comes off the back of the supermarket's push to donate food that would otherwise go to landfill - something its stores has been doing since 2011.

In the last year, up to $3.7 million worth of food was donated to people through its food rescue partners that includes the Salvation Army. A further $2.1 million has been given to farmers as food scraps for their animals.

As well as the programme, the supermarket is again linking up with Sallies for its annual Christmas appeal, which sees customers given the chance to donate food items in-store or online.

All 184 Countdown stores from around the country will also donate $500 worth of groceries to local Salvation Army centres that will result in up to $92,000 worth of groceries going to Sallies food banks.

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The Salvation Army's national secretary for social services, Major Pamela Waugh, said: "Thousands of New Zealanders come to us at Christmas simply for help to feed their families.

"While people have luxury items on their Christmas wish lists, we need to remember the people who are just dreaming of a meal with their family.

"A food parcel with pantry staples and a few Christmas treats means the world to people in need and brings some joy during the festive season.''

For more information and application details for the Countdown Food Rescue programme, visit their website.