Everyone has their own battles to fight and the causes that lie close to their hearts. Since I heard about the social enterprise FoodCloud, back in 2013, fighting food waste and food poverty has become one of my battles.
I have always had quite a strong interest in the food industry, and as such have been aware of the issue of food wastage but it wasn’t until I volunteered in an orphanage in India when I truly experienced how many of us live such a privileged life in Ireland and that there are so many others around the world going hungry.
That’s why I admire the concept of FoodCloud so much. FoodCloud is an App that connects businesses that have too much food with charities that give food to those who need it. This way they’re not just tackling the environmental problems food waste causes, but also providing a solution to food poverty that is so prevalent in our communities. I wanted to be part of this food revolution to combat food waste, while also helping those less fortunate who are right on my doorstep.
The perfect opportunity for me to get involved with FoodCloud was the start of the â€œFood Distribution Projectâ€ (now Food Rescue Project) about one year ago. I registered my interest, went along to their first training night and have been volunteering with them an evening a week since. Here are some lessons I’ve taken away so far:
An evening with FoodCloud is an instant experience of its impact
7 nights a week two volunteers hit the road in FoodCloud’s e-Car which is kindly sponsored by ESB and some volunteers have christened it â€œFoodieâ€. The mission: Picking up surplus food from Tesco stores and delivering it to charities who will pass it on to people who need it. The amount and type of food you receive on any given night can vary a lot; it’s nice to see a mix of meat and poultry, fruit and veg, as well as the most common fresh baked goods.
I remember one night where we stuffed the car to the brim with crates and still had to carry some products on our laps – it would have been such a shame to see it go to waste and it’s just too valuable to the families who were receiving the delivery that night.
The surplus food we collected was easily worth about â‚¬750 â€¦. and that’s just from two stores, in one night.
The evening usually flies by, as you’ll find that for the most-part you have a lot in common with the other volunteer, given that you’re both interested in taking part in FoodCloud’s Distribution Project for similar reasons, so you’ve plenty to talk about! It’s a really enjoyable way to meet others, while also giving back to the community and becoming more socially conscious.
It’s always possible to give 3-4 hours a week for volunteering
I would have dabbled in volunteering with various causes since secondary school. In my final year of studying in UCD, I took part in UCD Volunteers Overseas. This was a year-long programme whereby each individual had a target to raise â‚¬2,500 and then I spent a month teaching and living in an orphanage in India. The following year, I was just getting used to working full-time and thought I didn’t have much time for volunteering.
This was certainly something that I found was not true the moment I started volunteering with FoodCloud. It’s so easy to spare 3-4 hours once a week. This does not have to interrupt your professional or social life. Now it’s such an important element of my week, it’s an escape from the daily routine and really, it’s the least I can do to give back to my community.
I’ve changed some of my own worst food waste behaviors
Beforehand, and to my shame now, I was one of those people like so many others, who panicked over any products still in the fridge even a day past the â€œbest beforeâ€ date. Now I have much more knowledge over food safety and can usually judge whether something is okay to consume or not, without checking the â€œbest beforeâ€ date. My mother is only delighted with me now, as she would have always tried to explain you don’t need to instantly throw something out just because the label says so.
I’ve also learnt a lot about different ways to lengthen the shelf life of certain foods or how to use up surplus food with clever recipes and articles that FoodCloud share on their social media accounts.
Food Mary saved on her shift on September 22
I’m now feeling part of a food-saver community, or actually of a changemaker community
With one year of volunteering for FoodCloud, I’ve become a lot more aware of other similar food waste projects and I’m always eager to learn about them. As a volunteer with FoodCloud, you can join their Facebook group and it’s really nice to be part of this cohort, many of whom regularly share articles they’ve come across that they think might be of interest to the rest of us.
However, being involved with FoodCloud hasn’t just heightened my awareness of the problem of food poverty alone, rather, I’m more aware of all the issues society is facing. Where possible, I try to support as many initiatives as possible, but don’t like to spread myself too thin for the moment, FoodCloud is where I dedicate my time outside of my day job as a corporate fundraiser for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin.
I started to feel so strong about certain issues, that it even made me write my first blog post
One Sunday in March I had to go out for the Sunday collection by myself, it was International Women’s Day and I happened to be dropping the surplus food off to a Women’s Refuge Centre. At the time, I was so moved by the experience, and despite never having written any blog posts before, I just felt that I had to share my experience with others.
Since posting this article, I have received so many responses from people who have remarked saying they will try to be more vigilant with food waste or they have expressed interest in volunteering. I never expected more than a few friends to read the article, but I’m delighted it’s organically reached so many people and I really hope it’s made at least some small impact.
Let me sum it up again: What would Dublin, what would I be without FoodCloud?
Without FoodCloud we wouldn’t be as educated about food waste and food poverty. Our community wouldn’t be as socially connected. We would have significantly more perfectly edible food piling up in dumps that are already overflowing across the country. There would be many more families going hungry each night. Without FoodCloud, Dublin and Ireland would lack a very beneficial social enterprise that enriches our society on so many levels.
On a personal level, I got to meet some lovely new people from all walks of life and you usually end up sharing the most interesting stories, the night flies by and you’re already looking forward to the next shift.
On another level, you are rewarded by knowing that you are making a small but significant impact on society by saving perfectly good food from being thrown out and instead, delivering it to local charities that are in desperate need of more food for the individuals and families they provide a service to.
I’ve never once come home after a night of volunteering and felt â€œGosh, that was a waste of my timeâ€. In fact it’s always the exact opposite, I feel so satisfied that I’ve helped to make a positive difference and I’m always humbled to be reminded how privileged my life is and not to take food or anything else for granted.
FoodCloud has been focusing its operations in Dublin so far. You can just contact Fiona if you’d like to get involved in the Foodcloud Dublin volunteer team.
If you’d be interested in bringing the FoodCloud Food Rescue Project to your community anywhere else in Ireland, please fill in the FoodCloud “Start-Your-Own” form and we’ll keep you in the loop on how you can get started.