A charity has provided the makings of more than two million meals to needy people since it opened its doors in Little Island, Co Cork, two years ago.
Bia Food was set up as a hub to take unwanted food from major supermarket chains and distribute them to various charities around Munster.
Some full-time workers are employed in the depot, but a lot of the work is also done by a dedicated team of volunteers.
Trevor Keating, who is full-time manager at the centre, said when deliveries come in they contact the various charities telling them what they have and then take an order for delivery.
“We know where everything is going all the time because we can track it all on a computer system,” said Trevor.
“We get food from Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, and Musgraves on a very regular basis. We also get a container load every month from Kellogg’s. Fyffes also give us a pallet of bananas every week. A meat factory, which doesn’t want to be named, also gives us microwavable meals regularly.”
During the past two years, Bia Food has taken delivery of 810,000 tonnes of food which would otherwise have been buried in landfills.
Brendan Dempsey, a well-known senior figure with the Society of Vincent de Paul in Cork, is also a volunteer worker at Bia Foods.
“We are always looking for more food donors, especially factories,” said Brendan. “It would be far better to give food to us than dump it. It costs €150 a tonne to bury in landfill.”
Companies mainly make deliveries to the Bia Food warehouse in Little Island in the mornings.
“We can call on up to 16 volunteers to come in and help sort the food, which is then delivered to a large number of charities all over Munster who in turn pass them on to people in need,” Brendan said.
To date, Bia Food has been responsible for delivering 2,000,014 meals to to almost 100 charities operating in the province. Brendan said that in the coming months they expect to handle even more food.
What is being donated by the various companies is totally fit for human consumption. In some cases it might be that it’s approaching its sell by date. In other cases it may be slightly under the correct weight.
“We pass the food onto charities such as Cork Penny Dinners, Simon, Vincent de Paul, Barnardos, drugs and alcohol treatment facilities etc,” Brendan said.
Bia Food charges the charities a nominal sum if they want the food delivered to them rather than the charity picking it up from Little Island.
That is just to pay for the petrol and to cover other running costs at the site.
“We have a large deep-freeze which costs us €50 a day to run,” Brendan noted.
Food from Little Island is sent to Vincent de Paul in Blackpool where volunteers make up food hampers.
“On a normal week, we’d distribute up to 700 of them to needy families,” Brendan said.
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