Ten years ago, the “Re-food” movement was inspired by a desire to eliminate excess food waste.
Following the economic crisis in 2009, Hunter Halder, an American expatriate living in Lisbon (Portugal), found himself without a source of income. As he questioned his options, his daughter questioned the fate of leftover food from the nearby salad bar at their dinner table one evening. Hunter surmised that it would surely go straight to the trash, not only at this particular restaurant, but in restaurants across Lisbon.
Shortly thereafter, his daughter started working at a local hotel, and on the first night witnessed trays of perfectly good, expensive food being dumped into the trash. She returned home livid as her father tried to reason that the hotel had no reasonable alternative. This very word “alternative” ultimately triggered their first draft of the “Re-food” project that night.
While the Re-food Movement originated in the neighborhood of Nossa Senhora de Fátima (Lisbon, Portugal) in 2010, it and has been replicated successfully in other areas in the years to follow. This independent, citizen-driven, 100% volunteer community charity project ambitiously aimed to eliminate food waste and end hunger one neighborhood at a time. Today, volunteers, restaurants, cafés, bakeries, supermarkets, churches, universities, city governments, social partners, festivals, and businesses of all kind participate in the initiative!
How does it work? Volunteers collect excess food from partners on a daily basis, using storage containers for their operation centers. The food is screened, divided, then distributed to people across the community.
Each Re-food center is focused on serving its own local community. This dynamic creates a wide range of benefits generated as a result of micro-level focus.
Eliminate Food Waste: Only at the micro-local environment level can the possibility of ending food waste be considered. Macro-urban food rescue operations necessarily focus on larger donors and exclude small and medium donors, while the micro-local model includes all food sources within the delineated territory.
End Hunger: In a macro-urban environment, rescue operations deliver leftover food to institutions serving a fixed clientele, whereas in the micro-local environment model, individuals and familiars not supported by other institutions are the first to receive food assistance.
Build Community Solidarity: Only concerted, shared activity that endures over time can build community solidarity. The movement’s neighborhood focus enables members of the local community to come together and change the world around them.
Today, Portugal has 51 Re-food operation centers and, as a volunteer, I am proud to be part of this movement and see how many people can be food-assisted during hard times. Volunteering is always a two-way street: it can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating time to the Re-food movement has helped me make new friends, expand my network, and boost my social skills. Besides that, it is a relaxing, energizing escape from day-to-day work routines and family commitments. It also provides me with a renewed sense of creativity, motivation, and vision that I can carry over into my personal and professional life.
As a community, we rise and fall together. If anyone reading this is considering becoming a volunteer (no matter the type of organization), don’t hesitate. I assure you that you will have a vital impact on your community. Like Winston Churchill once said ‘We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give’.
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About the AuthorMore Content by Catarina Geão