RTÉ documentary offers a glimpse into how we eat

As a nation, we munch almost 2m sandwiches a week, spend €20m a day on snacks, but only €3m on fruit and vegetables.

The snapshot of the nation’s lunchtime habits is just one revelation in a new RTÉ documentary which gives a glimpse into the 21st century eating habits of the population.

The cameras follow a Wexford baker who starts work at 5am to ensure bread arrives at supermarket shelves nationwide, caterers who fill 200,000 sandwiches every day, and the Irish army chef preparing lunch for 150 soldiers at a field kitchen canteen.

The film crew also film at the Barack Obama Plaza in Moneygall, Co Offaly, where 5,000 commuters stop off every day. “We’re definitely feeding Ireland,” said the manager, “People like to do what we call dashboard dine. So your breakfast roll. Your builder heading to the site will eat it in the van.”

The film crew also visit the country’s biggest food bank — Tesco’s futuristic warehouse in Donabate run by robots — which is five times the size of Croke Park.

More than 13,000 products from pasta to prosecco are piled high in the aisles, with staff like Rory Rushe navigating the corridors monitored by traffic lights picking up orders — under the instructions of a robot.

“I’m a picker here in the warehouse. We’re told our [orders] by our arm computer”, he explains. “She tells us the location and how many to loads into each cage. The voice in the machine will stick with you forever. You hear her in your sleep.”

Meanwhile, as one of the world’s biggest dairy nations, it is fitting that Ireland downs 1.2m litres of milk every day. We also spend €4.7m on potatoes in a single day.

The Dublin fruit and vegetable market first opened in 1892, but trader Ciaran Butler, who sells produce from local growers, said demand is dwindling. “I imagine the top five supermarkets between SuperValu, Dunnes, Tesco, Aldi, and Lidl would account for around 90% of the market.”

He said the plain eating habits of the last century had completely changed. “Thirty years ago, the concrete ground was full of cabbage leaves. I just sold basic veg. Potatoes, carrots, turnips and most of all York cabbage. People ate local seasonal product. Now it is totally different.”

  • One Day — How Ireland Eats, RTÉ One, tonight at 9.35pm.


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