Every year, a huge amount of food is thrown away. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, about one third of all food is discarded before it is consumed, while at the same time, some 805 million people around the world stay hungry.
In both rich and poor areas, the problem seems to be equally crucial. In India, for example, 21 million tones of wheat is wasted due to the poor irrigation systems, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, the amount of loss reaches 6-11 kg per capita per year. In North America and Europe, the total is an astounding 95-115 kg per capita per year.
In a small country like Greece, which faces serious economic problems with more and more people suffering from lack of basic nutrition, this issue can not be faced with indifference.
A group living in Athens, Xenia Papastavrou, Alexander Theodoridis and Alexia Moatsou, thought that they could fight the problem by organizing the distribution of otherwise wasted food.
The idea was created by Ms. Papastavrou while she was having lunch in a restaurant. She wondered what was going on with the surplus of food in restaurants. Working for many years as a volunteer in the Greek Food Bank, she wanted to do something on a more specific and organised basis.
In 2011, she collaborated with Theodoridis Moatsou and founded the NGO Boroume, which means ‘we can’. The team focuses on how to take advantage of unused fresh and packaged food without any adding to its cost, and then worked to make the system expand to many parts of the country.
The program was widely welcomed. Within a few years, it distributed over two million meals and today the group averages 3000 portions per day across its network. The secret to their success is flexibility and effectiveness.
Every day the team, with help from volunteers, records the needs of welfare institutions, social services, soup kitchens and other people in need. They receive donations of fresh food from farmers, super markets, restaurants, hotels, food companies and individuals from all over Greece.
Volunteers in areas around the country help to feed locals in need, allowing for minimal transportation costs and strengthened neighbourhood ties. Information about the program and availability is announced on their website so everyone can access the network. This community-based model has proved widely successful. The organization has provided a model for poorer areas where food can be scarce, and also in richer nations with high levels of wasted food.
The European Federation of Food Banks, SEBA, is seeking to create other international NGOs based on the Greek model, and Boroume is receiving assistance from groups in the US.