Fresh approach to solve food poverty

Supermarket chain Lidl says it could provide thousands of tonnes of surplus food stocks free to struggling families if enough charity food banks were set up to handle storage and distribution.

Billy Barrett, 6, from Kilcullen, Co Kildare, and Patrick Campbell, of Crosscare Dublin Food Bank. Picture: Mark Stedman

The retailer yesterday launched an initiative that will see it make 300 tonnes of food, or some 120,000 meals, available each year to people suffering food poverty.

However, the project involves just eight of its 136 stores in the Republic because the country’s only full-time food bank does not have the space or resources to handle a bigger donation.

That means almost 5,000 tonnes of perfectly good food will continue to go to waste, the bulk of it being sent for compost while it is still fresh enough to eat.

Lidl spokeswoman Caitriona McCarry said the company would be happy to expand the initiative, both because of the social good it would do and because of the company’s own waste reduction policies.

“There is no reason why we would limit it to those eight stores but at the moment the capacity is not there to handle the surplus,” said Ms McCarry.

The new arrangement sees Lidl link up with the Crosscare Food Bank, which is run by the Catholic Church’s Dublin Archdiocese, and has already been distributing some 500 tonnes of donated food through dozens of charities and its own community cafes and Meals on Wheels services each year.

Lidl is supplying and fuelling a refrigerated truck to act as a mobile food bank, manned by Crosscare volunteers, that will carry out daily collections from eight Dublin stores for delivery directly to local charities, with any remaining stocks going to the central Crosscare depot.

Michael McDonagh, senior manager for Crosscare Food Services said: “There has never been a greater need for our services, which helps feed those affected by food poverty, than in the current economic climate.

“We help people from all walks of life that have found themselves unable to put food on the table for themselves and their families, and this partnership will thankfully be able to help lots more people.”

Ms McCarry stressed that the donated food stocks would all be of top quality, with at least several days to go before its use-by date.

“We operate a cushion which is a guarantee that when a customer buys a food time, it has a certain amount of shelf life, so that when they take it home it will stay fresh for the longest possible time,” she said.

“We take it off sale when it reaches that cushion and either dispose of it or, as now will be the case with the eight stores, divert it to the food bank.”

Official figures reveal that more than 10% of people in Ireland are affected by food poverty, which means that they cannot afford to provide themselves and their families with the recommended daily amounts of quality food.

Those most likely to be at risk of food poverty include those living alone; families on low incomes; single parents; and families with three of more children.

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