Calls for a national food bank

Calls have be made for a national food bank following reports some 50,000 tonnes of good food is thrown away annually.

A food bank rescues good quality surplus food that would otherwise have gone to waste and sends it to charities and community projects.

“We have organisations like this in Ireland, such as Bia Food Bank and the Crosscare food bank, as well as a number of community projects in the North of Ireland, but there is no national distribution centre and, despite the great work being done, achieving the maximum capacity for sourcing food and rescuing it from waste is not currently possible,” noted Dublin North-West Deputy Dessie Ellis in the Dail yesterday.

Deputy Ellis also referred to European figures where it is estimated €1bn of food is redistributed through food banks every year.

“This equates to approximately 33,000 tonnes of food reaching five million people and making up 776 million meals. This saves businesses and charities money as well as paying for meals they are already serving and it puts food on the plate for many people who are seriously suffering, particularly in this economic depression,” he said.

He also referred to FareShare, a large food bank in Britain, which only redistributes food inside its ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates.

He outlined its recent figures: “In 2012, it rescued 3,600 tonnes of food which would otherwise have gone to landfill. FareShare contributed towards more than 8.6 million meals in 2012, which equates to feeding 36,500 people a day. This food is delivered to a broad range of grassroots organisations all across the UK, including homeless shelters, day centres, women’s refuge centres and children’s breakfast clubs.”

Organisations operate like this in Ireland, such as Bia Food Bank and the Crosscare food bank, but there is no national distribution centre, he said.

“Despite the great work being done, achieving the maximum capacity for sourcing food and rescuing it from waste is not currently possible.”

Deputy Ellis is calling for a national food bank distribution centre that could work with major supermarkets, wholesalers and others on the supply chain.

“This could massively increase the ability of charities and community groups to provide food where it is needed. This would only cost a small sum relative to the benefit it would yield.”

In reply the Minister for State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Tom Hayes, outlined current work under way such as the programme of food aid for deprived persons, which was established in 1987 as a reaction to conditions faced by deprived persons during a particularly harsh winter.

In addition some €2.6m worth of butter, cheese and rice have been distributed to various charities by the Agriculture Department to 563 registered charities.

He praised the many charities across Ireland who participate in the reception and distribution of the foodstuffs to deprived persons. “These organisations play a key role in the implementation of the programme,” he said.

The minister noted, however, that the majority of the charitable organisations using the scheme in Ireland do not have the capacity to store large quantities of product and the programme of food aid for deprived persons itself is set to cease this year.

“This will be the last year that the current programme will operate under the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine in line with the expiry of the EU regulation.”

A new fund to support the provision of food and consumer products for people who are the most deprived is to be established next year where some €3.5m has been earmarked.

Any proposals for the establishment of a national food bank will come in the first instance from the charitable sector in conjunction with food producers and retailers, he added.

Please be considerate of others when commenting. All comments posted are subject to our commenting policy. Comments violating this policy will be removed without notice.