The Food Revolution in Ireland

Iseult Ward is a One Young World Ambassador from Ireland who is passionate about reducing food waste and food poverty. She is the co-founder and project manager of FoodCloud, a social enterprise that re-distributes surplus food from businesses to charities in their local community.FoodCloud has developed a successful model that brings food businesses and charities together with an easy to use and reliable platform, matching those with too much food with those who have too little. Iseult was named one of TIME Magazine's Next Generation Leaders.

At the One Young World Summit 2013 in Johannesburg, I heard Jamie Oliver speak passionately about Food Revolution Day – a global campaign to give every child a practical education about healthy food and to end childhood obesity. He spoke about how lonely it can be trying to push for change, and the need for communities to work together to make a difference. With FoodCloud, we have managed to harness the power of communities by creating win-win situations for businesses and people at risk of food poverty.

Ireland is the fifth worst waster of food in Europe. 450,000 people in Ireland suffer from food poverty whilst one million tonnes of food is wasted every year. Supermarkets, restaurants, cafes and caterers contribute significantly to this figure. This isn’t their fault, it’s just that uncertain demand means that they have to buy a surplus of food – meaning that good food often goes unsold. Disposing of food adds to their already high operating costs.

FoodCloud has provided businesses with a sustainable solution. We bring businesses and charities together to reduce food waste and food poverty. Our formula is simple: we have an app, legal contracts (to ensure that we follow food safety regulations) and a community network that wants to restore the old Irish community spirit based on sharing food.

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This year, as we expand FoodCloud across Ireland, we have seen the amazing benefits of communities working together to do wonderful things. In the last 12 months we have expanded our operations to over 100 businesses across the country. Since our launch in October 2013, we have redistributed 431 tonnes of food to over 300 charity partners. We redistribute the equivalent of 5,000 meals every evening.

We work with a partner charity that runs a cookery school. As well as providing families with food, they use the donations for their home management classes where they bring in 2 classes of 15 people per week and teach them how to prepare nutritious meals. Their two tutors look over the food crates picked up from Tesco supermarket and create menus suitable for their classes. Some of the participants are also learning about fruit and vegetables they had never cooked with before.

We realised that charities in the centre of Dublin had challenges in collecting the donations of food that were on offer. We have launched an initiative in Dublin called the Food Rescue Project. The Food Rescue Project provides a solution for charities that are not in a position to collect food donations they desperately need. Food is rescued from participating businesses in Dublin and delivered to a local charity by a FoodCloud car, kindly sponsored by Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board.

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We employ 57 trained volunteers. Every evening of the week two volunteers go out in the car and redistribute food to charities in need. Over 11,000 meals have been donated through the Food Rescue Project in Dublin since November 2014 and four partner charities have benefited: a youth club, a homeless shelter and two women’s refuges.

We were very fortunate to have had a feature in TIME magazine before Christmas after receiving an award in Ireland from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. This was amazing exposure for the organisation and what really surprised us was the number of individuals and organisations from communities across the world were interested in our solution. This has inspired us to keep perfecting our solution in Ireland but to also start exploring how we can expand our impact on an international scale. We still have a lot of hard work to do but we hope that we will be able to provide our solution to communities internationally soon.

Our experience to date has really shown us that food is much more than sustenance. It brings people together and it is an amazing tool that can build communities in every country around the world. On this Food Revolution Day, think about how you can bring people together in your community through food.