City’s first food bank to redistribute surplus supplies

Cork’s first food bank will open next year, with organising group Bia saying the initiative will provide access to tonnes of surplus food that otherwise would go to waste.

The Bia Food Initiative said it hoped to open the food bank in the city next March, provided sufficient funds had been raised. It has already secured initial seed funding and located three possible warehouses, as well as linking with local charities, such as the Cork Branch of the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

Nationally, an estimated 50,000 tonnes of good food is thrown away or fed to animals at a time when charities and support groups are reporting increased incidents of food poverty. A conference on food poverty held in Dublin last month heard that some children attending school were suffering physical weakness as a result of not having eaten enough.

Eoin MacCuirc of the Bia Food Initiative said €250,000 would be needed to open a food bank in Cork and to begin the roll-out of a central distribution centre in Dublin.

Cork will be a pilot regional hub for the project, with Mr MacCuirc saying it was hoped larger retailers, such as Aldi and Tesco, would come on board in a way that would mean thousands of tonnes of surplus food being redistributed to charities.

Crosscare runs a smaller food bank in Dublin, but the Bia initiative will allow 40ft lorries to make large, regular deliveries in what would ultimately be a nationwide project. The Bia Initiative has already teamed up with Fairshare in Britain, which has agreements with major retailers and which moved enough food in 2012 for nearly 11m meals.

“Bia will take the Fairshare model and put that around Ireland,” said Mr MacCuirc. “We give the food to charities for a tenth of the price, to keep it sustainable. Then, there is a charge to the business for not having waste.

“We want to prove you can move away from the model of food vouchers.”

With €100,000 already secured, Mr MacCuirc said he was “confident” the remaining €150,000 would be raised to begin the project in March.

“What we would love is a white knight to come in,” he said, adding: “We have been working on this for the last year-and-a-half.”

The three possible locations for the food bank are in Northpoint in the north of the city, Togher in the south and in Little Island.

Last month, Aldi said it had to get rid of €10m worth of surplus food in Ireland each year.


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