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'One million tonnes of food are wasted in Ireland each year, people know that's wrong'

FoodCloud, an organisation helping to combat this, has gone from strength to strength in the last five years.

Note: FoodCloud does not take donations of hot food
Note: FoodCloud does not take donations of hot food
Image: Shutterstock/nito

SOME ONE MILLION tonnes of food are thrown out by consumers and businesses in Ireland every year – that’s about €700-worth of food per household.

At the same time, one in eight people here experience food poverty.

The starkness of these figures prompted the establishment of FoodCloud in 2012. The non-profit redistributes leftover food from supermarkets and businesses to charities.

The simple idea behind the organisation caught people’s imaginations and the initiative has grown substantially in the last five years.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, FoodCloud co-founder Aoibheann O’Brien said most people instinctively know that food waste is wrong and they want to combat it.

“It’s a gut feeling, wasting food is not something that any of us like to do. It’s quite instinctive, whether in a home or a business. People want to find a solution, we all feel a little uncomfortable with food waste. It’s a no-brainer for a lot of people.”

O’Brien and fellow FoodCloud co-founder Iseult Ward won €140,000 in funding from the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards in 2014.

download Source: FoodCloud

O’Brien said this money, and related mentoring, was “crucial” in helping FoodCloud develop from a Dublin-based startup with two employees to an organisation with 30 staff working across Ireland and the UK.

Businesses use the company’s app to upload details of their excess food. The service then texts a local charity, who in turn picks up the donation and shares it with those in need.

FoodCloud currently works with about 300 Tesco and Aldi stores nationwide, as well as about 1,200 Tesco stores in the UK, where it is also engaged in a pilot scheme with the Waitrose chain.

download (3) FoodCloud founders Aoibheann O'Brien (left) and Iseult Ward Source: Naoise Culhane

The organisation also now has hubs in Dublin, Cork and Galway where businesses, manufacturers and farmers can drop off surplus food for collection, so waste is dealt with earlier on in the supply chain, an area O’Brien says there is a lot of growth potential.

“Whether you’re a farmer in West Cork or supplier in Dublin, there’s an opportunity to cut down on food waste,” she adds.

Money available 

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is calling for people to enter this year’s awards before 29 March.

Aspiring entrepreneurs with ideas to solve social problems in Ireland could be in the running to receive a financial boost to support their work.

Eight winners will receive €25,000: €10,000 in initial unrestricted funding and €15,000 as part of an accelerator programme that will give them access to coaches and mentors.

food Source: FoodCloud

People with early-stage ideas for social change can apply to the Academy for Social Entrepreneurs, with each place valued at €3,000. Some 15 winners in the Academy category will also have a chance to pitch for up to €5,000 to get their idea off the ground.

Darren Ryan, CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, said there has been increased interest from financial supporters, adding to the existing funds available for the winners of this round.

We’ve seen how the support from the commercial business sector can assist social entrepreneurs in making a huge impact across Irish society, and we rely on this support to make this change happen.

More information about the awards, which are supported by DCC plc, can be read here. The deadline for applications is 5pm on Wednesday, 29 March.

Read: The co-founder of Ryanair has joined the board of Dublin startup FoodCloud

Read: Ghost estates could soon be a thing of the past

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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