Our Surplus Food Donations Partners
The Connect Family Resource Centre, LouthFamily Resource Centre Show more
“I think the best thing about our involvement with FoodCloud and Tesco is that we’re helping families to put food on the table,” says Mairead Davies of the Connect Family Resource Centre (FRC) in Drogheda, Co Louth. “I’m proud of that. It’s the best service that we offer.”
The Connect FRC was the first cause outside of Dublin to sign up to Tesco’s innovative partnership with FoodCloud to distribute food to those in need. “The centre opened in 2009 and we engage with the local community and we provide support to families who need it,” says Mairead, who has worked as Coordinator there since 2013.
Mairead says that those working in the centre knew that people in the local area were suffering from food deprivation, but they had not been able to help because of lack of funds. That all changed when they were approached to join the food donations programme in 2014. “When I heard about it, I was so excited.”
Volunteers from the centre collect donations from the two Tesco stores in Drogheda – Tesco Extra and Tesco West Street – on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. “We store it overnight in our fridge and freezer,” says Mairead. “Although we distribute it at 9.30 the next morning, people start queuing from 9am. We put the food out on tables and people can take what they like. It’s to minimise waste and to make sure that we’re not giving out food that will be then thrown out. But we do distribute the meat products ourselves to make sure that everybody gets some of them.”
Normally, about 20 people come into the centre to avail of the food donations, which means that 20 families are fed each day, but the number is growing. “We say one bag per household,” says Mairead, “so that nobody comes in to fill three bags. Throughout the years, we’ve tried and tested other methods, and this is the fairest system we’ve found to make sure that everybody goes away with a good meal to feed a family.”
The donations received by the centre include a variety of meat, vegetables, breads, cakes and fruit, and Mairead says that the people are delighted with the quality of the food available. “It’s the reason many of them turn up and queue beforehand.”
As well as local charities, the benefits of this programme have spread to many of the 108 FRCs in Ireland. “We were the first to offer food donations and we’ve encouraged the other FRCs to get involved and I know that many of them throughout the country have done so,” says Mairead.
“We are proud to be a part of this Tesco Food Cloud service. It is an excellent, low-cost, sustainable initiative which tackles the issue of food waste and is economically viable. Long may this partnership continue.”Show less
Cork FoyerUnique facility tackling youth homelessness Show more
Cork Foyer is the only dedicated facility for youth homelessness in Ireland, catering for 18 to 25-year-olds. The 19-bed facility was set up 11 years ago in the suburb of Blackpool. Such is the demand for its services that a sister facility to house 39 residents is due to open in September in Bishopstown on the city’s southside.
The Foyer concept first started in Europe after the Second World War, and it was very successful for several decades. Its aim is to provide young people with a comfortable home and an environment that is conducive to learning, allowing them to focus solely on their future during their stay.
The model appealed to the members of Cork City Council and they brought in a manager from the UK to set up the project. Barry Waddington’s plan was to stay in Ireland for two years, but 12 and a half years later, he’s still in Cork.
Denis Murphy, the facility’s life-skills and talent coach, understands this only too well. Eight years ago, he was involved in a sustainable gardening programme in the residential facility. Now he, too, is a key member of the team.
Denis is responsible for teaching the young residents how to feed themselves and how to budget their money, as well as horticulture skills.
He’s very sympathetic towards the issues of the residents. “A lot of them started out in care or went to prison, or had conflict in the family home and ended up homeless. They come to us after they have been referred by the homelessness or after-care services or Tusla. They haven’t got the skills to live on their own.”
A lot of the Foyer’s residents didn’t have much structure in their lives, he says, no-one ever said no to them. “If someone steps out of line, I’ll tell them. I give out but I’m also the shoulder, they can come and confide in me.”
About 12 months ago, Foyer got involved in Tesco’s innovative partnership with FoodCloud and this has made a real difference to the centre.
“Our food bill has decreased,” says Denis, “which means that we have the ability to cook different types of meals and more of them. It gives our residents the ability to look after themselves so that they won’t have a hungry day.”
Many residents, who are typically aged between 19 and 20, have suffered food poverty. They receive €100 from the Government (unless they are in a full-time training course) but they don’t know how to manage it.
The Foyer’s cooking classes, which are mandatory, are very popular. Denis says that pasta is a favourite dish, but today frittata and a pear cake with syrup are on the menu.
The Tesco surplus food donations received by Foyer include a lot of meat, fish and vegetables. The residents are delighted with them. The deliveries from the Mahon, Wilton, Douglas and Paul Street stores typically arrive at 9.15pm, and Denis says that there used to be a queue, “but I stopped that out of fairness. By taking control of it and managing it, it means that the same few people don’t always get steak, everyone gets the same and it spreads the load.”
Denis operates a ‘last in, last out’ approach to meat and fish. When the donations arrive, he dates it and stores it in a locked freezer. The next day, it is distributed into the residents’ public freezer.
At Foyer, residents are educated about how to manage food. For example, if they are planning to make something on Wednesday, they learn to take it out of the freezer the day before and to put it into the private fridge in their room before bringing it to the shared cooking facilities.
There are two or three cooking classes every week, and Denis says that the residents go mad if they miss them, because they’ll have to make something to eat later. “We’re still dealing with teenagers who try to do the least amount possible!” he says.
The Foyer residents begin with internal training - computer, personal development and communications skills up to FETAC levels 3 and 4 - and then progress to external programmes. “Since we linked in with FoodCloud and Tesco, we have the capacity to make bigger batches of meals, so we have food ready for those who come in in the evening time,” says Denis.
Residents can stay in Foyer for a maximum of two years – their stay is reviewed after six months. “After that, of course, we don’t throw them into the street,” says Denis. “But the shortage of affordable rental properties is causing difficulties.
The new facility in Bishopstown – comprising seven independent houses - caters for those who have gone through the Foyer programme and have enough independent skills to house share. All the people living there will be attending external training courses. “We’ll be able to help them by making sure that they have food, thanks to Tesco,” says Denis.Show less
St. Patrick’s Gateway, WaterfordLocal community centre Show more
Saint Patrick’s Gateway, a place of worship in Waterford that has been converted into a multi-purpose community centre, receives donations twice a week – every Wednesday and Thursday – from the Ardkeen and Poleberry stores.
“I think it’s great. Otherwise the food would be dumped. Why do that when someone else could get use out of it? It really helps people in a big way” says Thomas Hostford who manages St Patrick’s Gateway.
The organisation benefits in two ways from Tesco’s innovative partnership with FoodCloud; the people who work in St Patrick’s Gateway distribute the surplus food donations among needy families in the city and they also work in collaboration with Helping Hands, a charity that provides dinner six nights a week in the community centre. In addition, St Patrick’s Gateway hosts a Christmas dinner for the needy and lonely in the city, feeding about 70 people last year.
The volunteers with Helping Hands cook dinner every night except Sunday, providing from 12 to 25 people with a full meal, such as a hearty stew, followed by tea, coffee and biscuits. People attending the dinner can take bread home for breakfast the next morning.
“We started getting food donations about 12 months ago,” says Thomas, “it takes a lot of pressure off the families who receive these.”
“We give out all the produce. Some families come and collect it that night, and the next day we deliver anything that’s left. About 15 to 20 families benefit from the surplus food donations. It is labour-intensive, but that’s part of our mission.”
The site of St Patrick’s Gateway has been a place of worship since 1100, and the current Church, which was built in 1720, is the third one there. The Methodists took it over in 2011 and, four years ago, spent about €400,000 renovating the building before opening it up as a community centre and church. “About 60 to 70 per cent of our congregation are Africans,” says Thomas, “many of them are still refugees.”
The Methodist ethos is to help others and to get involved in the local community. There’s a wide range of classes on offer in the centre, including a mother and tots group, active physio, meditation and art instruction. Lots of choirs avail of it for practice and concerts, while local groups such as the historical society use it for regular meetings. “A lot of this activity is done on a community basis,” says Thomas, “so we’re still struggling to make ends meet.”
The church has a fund to help needy people, says Thomas, which has experienced a tangible benefit since they got involved with Tesco’s food donation programme. They are now able to help people with school expenses such as books and uniforms, once-off medical costs and accommodation for those who need somewhere to stay.Show less
The Cavan CentreEducation & community centre Show more
Celine Burke is 100% in favour of Tesco’s innovative food donation partnership with FoodCloud. “I hate to see waste. I thought it was an amazing idea to take this food that would be perfectly okay, but would be thrown out.” She was responsible for bringing the programme to The Cavan Centre, which is a residential educational centre for community development based outside Ballyjamesduff.
The centre, which is a charity rather than a commercial operation, provides outdoor education for marginalised communities and individuals, primarily but not exclusively, from north inner city Dublin and it has been in operation since 1977.
Celine has worked in the centre for nine years, and she is the administrator for the Empowering Communities programme, one of three on offer and the one that attracts the most people, mainly teenagers, both male and female. Last year, 3,942 visitors to the Cavan Centre participated in the programme, which really benefits from Tesco’s donations of surplus food.
The Empowering Communities programme involves residential stays and outdoor activities including kayaking, go-karting and archery. An itinerary is tailored specifically to each group and all meals are provided. Participants in the programme typically stay for two nights, but that extends to five during the summer.
It’s been two years since the centre started getting donations from the Tesco store in Cavan Town, which is about a 25-minute drive away, and Celine can’t speak highly enough of the benefits of their involvement. “It’s really alleviated the strain of the cost involved in ordering food. Obviously we don’t know what we’re going to get before we receive the donations but they have made a real difference to our food budget.
“We receive donations on Wednesday evenings. One of the staff members who is on a Community Employment scheme collects the deliveries and they’re sorted out the next morning. We mainly receive bread and baked goods, fruit and vegetables, some chilled products such as coleslaw and meat,” says Celine. “I don’t remember the last time we ordered bread from our suppliers.”
Most of the foodstuffs are frozen to be used over the weekend and the following week. “We provide breakfast, lunch and tea for the groups who stay with us,” says Celine. “We also have self-catering guests, and if we’ve got an excess of bakery products, we’ll pass those on. We put doughnuts and other pastries into Tupperware boxes so people can help themselves throughout the day, and we also use them for staff tea breaks.”
The centre offers a salad bar at lunch and a hot meal at teatime, also accompanied by salads. Celine says that they offer healthy home-cooked meals, but getting a mixed bean salad from Tesco, for example, provides a bit more variety into the menu. “We also get a lot of cheese and sliced meats, and we put those out too. We get a lot of foreign nationals as well, and they really like cheese, sliced meats and bread for breakfast.”
Now that it’s summertime, the centre typically has 60 residents a day and 20 staff and all of the donations are being put to good use.
“We facilitate respite stays at the centre as well and when the families arrive, they always comment about the fact that they received a welcome package of food with Tesco finest cakes. They think this is amazing.” Celine says that they simply wouldn’t be able to afford to buy those types of products on their budget.
Regular visitors to the centre are well aware of Tesco’s donations. Some of the groups involved even benefit from the surplus food donations at home.
Celine is keen to stress that good relationship between those at the centre and the Tesco colleagues in Cavan Town. “Gary, the manager there, has visited us and he knows what we do.” She says that he gave them extra donations in the run-up to a recent open day. The centre isn’t normally open to the public, but as it’s a Dublin-focussed project, its staff wanted to bring the locals in to explain its ethos. Thanks to Gary, they were able to give visitors a sweet treat to accompany their tea, a gesture that was really appreciated by the centre’s staff.
Celine would definitely recommend that other local groups get involved with Tesco’s food donation programme. “Totally, 100%, we’re very big into recycling here and we love the idea behind it, that we’re saving food from going to the dump. We like the fact that we’re helping the environment in our own way.”Show less