Since 2014, over 4 million meals have been donated by Tesco Ireland to over 250 causes across the country. These meals have resulted in savings of over €5.6 million for good causes and you can find out more about how these vital services are making a difference below.
St. Patrick’s Gateway, Waterford
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.
The Melting Pot, Co. Roscommon
The Melting Pot, a café and charity shop, is one of 4 causes in Roscommon collecting food donations from our stores in the area.
The mission of The Melting Pot is to change negative stereotypes associated with mental health issues and help those with mental health issues get back into the workforce.
Gary Greene, volunteer manager, works hard to change the negative stereotypes associated with mental health issues and help those with mental health issues get back into the workforce.
“Mental health is the last Irish taboo,” says Gary, “people still don’t want to talk about it.”
“Generally people with mental health issues have a lack of confidence,” says Gary. “A lot of people would be isolated in their own homes or in health-care centres and our aim is to get them integrated with the general public.” Here they can learn food preparation skills, how to manage a till and the essential tenets of customer service.
The ethos behind The Melting Pot is all about social inclusion and they have members of the Brothers of Charity, who have Down Syndrome or learning difficulties, regularly volunteer for an hour at a time.
The café and shop, which sells second-hand clothes, toys and general briq-a-braq, are open to the general public from 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and other groups that support The Melting Pot ethos can use the space free of charge during the evening-time. The Carer’s Association and Acquired Brain Injury Ireland are just organisations that avail of this service.
Gary has been volunteering with the group since 2009, and he took over the role of volunteer manager last summer. The organisation has been involved with FoodCloud and Tesco since December 2016 and they go to Tesco for donations twice a week – on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The donations vary, but usually include bread, fruit and vegetables. None of these foodstuffs are used in the café, instead they have enabled those working in The Melting Pot to extend the range of services they offer to the needy in the area.
Gary organises for families or individuals in need to come to The Melting Pot at 9pm on the donation nights, putting the baskets of food on tables. He does aim to prioritise the items if possible. For example, if he gets a leg of lamb, he tries to ensure that it goes to a family with a lot of children. And, if he has time, he will do deliveries himself.
The Connect Family Resource Centre, Co. Louth
“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.”
Linx Project, Ballymun, Dublin
Paula Cunningham of the Linx Project in Dublin’s Ballymun speaks very highly about the benefits of Tesco’s innovative partnership with FoodCloud; “We were able to hire a permanent chef, who has trained our other kitchen staff as a direct result of our relationship with Tesco”. The Tesco food donations programme allows Linx to offer service users a wholesome meal each day. “We get a lot of fruit, vegetables and meat – beef, as well as chicken and fish - and lots of bread. Anything we have left over goes into our food parcels so there is no waste”, says Paula.
Linx provides 60 meals a day for its meals-on-wheels service and another 20-30 for those who come to the drop-in centre. A typical menu includes soup, followed by beef stroganoff with baby potatoes and vegetables, and cheesecake for dessert. The centre is open from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Fridays, and tea, coffee and biscuits are available all day. It also provides invaluable support for those who avail of its services.
All the Linx clients know about the surplus food donations supplied by Tesco in Clearwater. The centre gets donations three times a week – Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and ‘we also get calls on other days when groups don’t show up and we can take the surplus,” says Paula.
“We don’t serve pizzas here, but sometimes we receive them from Tesco and we give them to our clients for their tea. They love it."
“We also get a lot of strawberries and raspberries and our clients would find them quite expensive, so it’s great for them to go home with a punnet of berries. It encourages them to eat more healthily.”
Paula is passionate about the benefits of receiving the surplus food donations from Tesco, and says it’s great to see what it does for the community. “It really benefits the people in need locally and it enables us to do more, thanks to the money we’ve saved.”
Speaking about the initiative and the company’s dedication to food waste, Christine Heffernan, Director of Corporate Affairs, Tesco Ireland said; “Tesco Ireland is working hard to tackle the issue of food waste across all of our 149 stores in Ireland. Even in the most efficient retail operations, there will inevitably be surplus food and we are proud to be making a valuable contribution to local communities enabling organisations to focus on the vital services they provide. We are proud to say that we have been able to donate over 624,000 meals to date making a real difference in communities across Dublin".
To find out more about Tesco Ireland’s surplus food donation programme, pop into any local Tesco store or sign up via emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.