Food Bank against Hunger: «It never hurts to help those who need it most»

There are 137 institutions helped by the Food Bank in the fight against hunger

It's 9 o'clock on a Wednesday. One hour before the doors of the Food Bank warehouse in Faro. When you enter, you can already see employees walking from one side to the other, packing baskets and organizing pallets, knowing that there are 21 associations that will receive that day.

A total of 137 associations are helped by the Food Bank. They are all organized on a monthly map, with the days and times when they come to the warehouse to collect donations.

Doors open, the associations' vans approach in line to collect their baskets.

During the week, there are usually between seven and eight collection vans, but Wednesday is the “debacle of everything”.

At the site, where the pallets are organized and transported to the vans, you can see the teamwork and unity without looking at who. Everything thinking about the next one.

Paula Gonçalves, one of the volunteers, has the role of pointing out everything that went to each institution, and says «Is 39 confirmed?», «I confirm 39», responds another volunteer. This is to confirm that a given institution has already collected it.

Each institution is treated by numbers assigned by the Food Bank system, so that they can be easily identified.

Mário Carvalho, another Bank volunteer, tells Sul Informação the process of dividing food for each IPSS.

«When they are fresh products, we divide them among each institution. When it comes to baskets, canned goods, milk, grain… this is all done with the number of people that this institution serves. Then, there is a difference if there is a cafeteria or social canteen that cooks. In this case, you will take packages that are more damaged», says Mário Carvalho.

The motto “No to waste” is always reinforced. Everything they have in storage goes to the associations and everything that cannot be consumed goes to the animals.

 

 

Association for the Protection of Girls and Families, Association of Socio-Cultural Solidarity of Montenegro and Nova Aliança Centro Social were some of the entities that waited their turn to collect the food on the morning of that Wednesday.

While the process is taking place, Mr Martins, collector of the Nova Aliança Centro Social de Olhão, speaks to the Sul Informação.

«Most of those here do this out of pleasure and people outside don't know how to value what this is, they think that everyone is here to gain», he comments.

Around 200 kilos of fresh produce are distributed to each of the entities, because these are products with a short shelf life and there are more of them. When there is a lot of fruit, such as bananas and oranges, or more fragile products, there is always extra to arrive in time to be consumed. As for vegetables, they weigh around 30 kilos. It is a type of food that arrives in smaller quantities, so it has to be well distributed throughout each association. Bread is an element that is not missing from the pallets, being present in each distribution.

The vans on the waiting list receive a little of everything in stock, even though it is not guaranteed that they will always receive the same products.

«We usually have pears, apples, everything and anything else. But these are donations, what we receive is what we can give, so it depends, today we are giving one thing, tomorrow, if a big truck of fruit arrives, it will be more, it depends on what we have in store», reinforces the volunteer Mario.

Between pallets and boxes, each volunteer helps and knows how to do everything.

«You have to know how to do a little of everything. I, as a rule, only come in the afternoon, but when Susana [another volunteer] is on vacation, I come in the morning», says Isabel Seixas, administrative director of the Food Bank.

A delivery note is issued for everything that is delivered, which is then kept by the institutions. All of them will declare to the finance department what they received from the Bank, so the bills have to be right.

«We know what we have in our house, therefore, from the moment a guide is issued, it will reduce the stock. We keep the document so that we can confirm what actually came out to the institutions», describes Isabel Seixas.

 

 

The clock shows 12:40, while the Sul Informação continue talking to this person in charge. At this time, a lot of people are getting ready to go to lunch, but not here. There is still a lot to do. We see one of the Food Bank vans arriving, which will collect surpluses from supermarkets, coming from the route Faro-Algoz.

Employees approach to unload the pallets into the warehouse.

Volunteer Paula Gonçalves is in charge of noting in the notebook the weight of the pallets of each food that arrived. After weighing, what you have is sorted and stored to make the next baskets.

From Monday to Friday, each van travels 200 kilometers per day. There are more than 60 places they visit every week.

Of these locations, Aldi, Lidl, Makro, Recheio and Apolónia are the main donor supermarkets and key players in the fight against hunger.

In commercial areas, employees remove all products that are at the end of their expiration date from the shelves, place them in boxes and then the Food Bank collects these surpluses.

According to Ângela Sarmento, director of marketing and communications at Apolónia supermarkets, since 2016 this Algarve food distribution company has “regularly collaborated with the Algarve Food Bank. Every week we donate food from our three stores, as well as always participating in the collections that BAA carries out throughout the year. Additionally, we collaborate with some BAA initiatives, such as BLIP, which took place on the 14th and 15th of October, in Portimão, and where we contributed by donating more than 1800 packets of milk».

Returning to the waiting line, one of the vans heads towards the Association for the Protection of Girls and Families (APRF). A routine that happens three times a week.

«We have certain days to collect food items from the Bank. Then, there are certain days to distribute them to families», explains Filomena Rosa, director of APRF.

In addition to scheduled distribution, APRF also promotes punctual deliveries. This happens whenever there are reinforced requests for help from families or when large quantities of perishable food arrive from the Bank, such as fruit and vegetables. In this case, the Association contacts people to come and collect it.

«There are some of these goods that we also spend at home, always looking for the ones that are most degraded, so that we can give the others to families», reports Filomena Rosa.

 

 

When the Bank's van arrives at the association, two employees unload it and immediately start making the monthly baskets to deliver to the 52 families (a total of 100 people) at the end of the day. Whatever is left is stored in the closet to be delivered when necessary.

According to Filomena Rosa, the partnership with the Food Bank cannot end, being a fundamental element to “feed” the municipality of Faro and partner institutions.

APRF also receives furniture, toys and clothing from other partner entities.

According to Nuno Cabrita Alves, president of Banco Alimentar contra a Fome do Algarve, the families that receive this type of support come, most of the time, from urban centers, whether they are Portuguese or immigrants, due to the higher unemployment rate and difficulties of current times.

It's 18:30 pm. O Sul Informação took advantage of the visit of “Tina” (fictitious name of a mother who preferred not to be identified) to the Association for the Protection of Girls and Families to learn a little more about her story.

“Tina” came from Morocco to Faro with a work contract and found out about the association through a project carried out at one of his children's school.

This help came at a difficult time, when her husband abandoned her and she had to leave the house where she lived.

Maria Nunes, the association's social worker, asked her mother “Tina” if she needed help and she accepted.

«Whenever there is something for me or the boys, she calls me to pick it up, the basket or something outside the basket», explains “Tina”, a beneficiary of the Association.

After separating, “Tina” never gave up on giving everything to her children. There is always food on the table with the “little help” from the baskets, from many people she has met and also from the City Council of Faro.

Many families find it difficult to ask for help when they are in difficulty and “Tina” is no different. «I wanted to ask for help, but I couldn't. I’m ashamed to say “Look, I wanted this, I wanted that”. It costs a lot to tell other people that,” she explains.

Despite this, this mother always found good people in Portugal who helped her with whatever she needed. Maria Nunes, for example, continues to be one of her “guardian angels”.

What is donated may not seem enough, but everything that comes is a great help to feed “Tina’s” family, just like the basket that was taken on the day of the conversation with the Sul Informação.

 

Volunteer Paula Gonçalves

 

The next morning, we went to see Bruno Pires, responsible for the Social Action and food support department at the Associação Sócio Cultural de Almancil (ASCA).

This is an entity that emerged in 2010, a time when there were no social responses in Almancil.

The Food Bank plays a fundamental role in this institution, providing food for 230 people, a total of 100 families.

«The connection is important for both sides. The work of the Food Bank, basically, is to store foodstuffs. Then, the partners distribute it to families», says Bruno Pires.

In addition to the baskets, ASCA is one of the examples of those who distribute ready-made meals in the social canteen to people who do not have a place to cook.

In the late afternoon, the Sul Informação returned to the Food Bank. It was 17:30 pm, closing time, but there was still work to do. Employees leave everything ready for the next day.

Meanwhile, the second food collection van from supermarkets arrived, coming from Almancil, Quarteira, Loulé and São Brás de Alportel.

All volunteers rush to unload the van, following the same procedure as in the morning. «As you can see, this doesn't stop, there is a lot of work here», comments Isabel Seixas, administrative director of Banco Alimentar.

There is a lot to organize throughout the day, but employees never lose motivation, even if fatigue tries to overcome them.

«I came here seven years ago, in 2017. Seeing so many people going hungry, being cold, my motivation was to give people dignity», reveals Isabel.

The administrative manager says, smiling, that she “fell in love” with the Food Bank when she started volunteering on Mondays and Wednesdays.

«First, it came for two hours, then four hours and the time came when I almost slept here. I work in the middle ground, but if it is necessary to work outside that middle ground, I come. That's why I say that I'm mainly a volunteer, with a lot of love for my shirt, because the Food Bank does a lot of good for a lot of people,” she says, smiling.

In addition to Isabel, there are 44 other employees who continue to grow this space, increasingly committed to supporting families in need.

«As the person responsible and president of the institution, it is a great weight and a great responsibility, especially because the institution has been growing over the years», says Nuno Cabrita Alves, president of Banco Alimentar do Algarve.

This Food Bank has two warehouses: one in Faro, covering the territory from Vila Real de Santo António to Portimão, another in Portimão, covering from Albufeira to Vila do Bispo.

It's in the warehouse Faro the discharges are made, the picking (choice), that everything is prepared. Then, the products are divided with those from Portimão.

The institution also has a 10 thousand square meter vegetable garden in Patacão (Faro), where seasonal vegetables are produced.

According to Nuno Alves Cabrita, the garden is a self-produced aid that adds a lot to donations, despite the main sources of supply being campaigns, such as the one that will take place next weekend, and supermarkets.

 

Isabel Seixas, administrative director

Even so, there is always the fear of food running out or not being enough to meet all our needs. But, when you least expect it, the “light” always appears.

“Something always arrives. So much so that we have that positive cold chamber that was built in 2012. It's been 12 years and the chamber has never been turned off, because products are always arriving. It's a chamber that holds 40 tons of products, we open the door, when we see a pallet in the corner and we say “this is for tomorrow, or it will be out soon. It’s now that we’re going to turn off the camera and be left with nothing.” But no, a truck arrives. Something always happens and that is remarkable», says Nuno Alves Cabrita, with emotion.

Help is always welcome at this institution, which forms a bridge with associations, in order to be closer to the population in need.

In addition to the annual campaigns, which take place in May and November, the population can make donations, delivering them to warehouses or through the platform from the bank.

«People just want it. If you want to help, by email, through social networks, by phone, sign up and participate», urges the president of the Food Bank.

In fact, for the campaign that will take place next weekend, in supermarkets in the Algarve and the rest of the country, there is a lack of volunteers. That's why, sign up! (see more information below)

Last year, the Algarve Food Bank managed to collect 2,8 million kilos of food, with the help of citizens and the 90 companies that work with the institution throughout the year.

ÂAngela Sarmento, ddirector of marketing and communications at supermarket chain Apolónia, highlights that «combating food waste is one of our concerns». Therefore, in addition to the various measures adopted by the company, the collaboration «with the Banco Alimentar do Algarve and with other institutions in the areas surrounding our three stores» also helps to combat waste.

«In the last two years, we donated more than 100 tons of food to the Algarve Food Bank, which helped it reach many families», he added. «We believe that we have a significant influence on the help given to Algarve families, given our weekly contribution. However, regardless of the size, all help is essential for a cause like this,” he concluded.

At the Food Bank warehouse in Faro, it is 19 pm, the volunteers have everything ready, so that, at 9 am the following morning, they will once again be at the forefront of the fight against hunger.

 

 

 

 

 


On the 25th and 26th of May, the Algarve Food Bank is preparing to hold another solidarity food collection campaign.
To participate in the campaign as a volunteer, you can Sign up by clicking this link here. Registration is mandatory and must be repeated with each campaign. In a statement, Nuno Cabrita Alves, president of the Algarve Food Bank, appeals “for everyone to unite and help in this cause”. The person responsible emphasizes that «one hour of your day will make a difference in the lives of thousands of families».

Volunteers are essential in any of the 130 stores, spread across all municipalities in the region, where it is necessary to distribute bags and, later, receive the food with the donations.

in the warehouses of Faro and Portimão, help is essential to unload food and separate it, fold bags, among other tasks.

Nuno Cabrita Alves reinforces that «in addition to volunteers in stores and in the warehouse, we need food donations». At this time, all support is essential,
since thousands of families are on the threshold of poverty.

Help can be provided in stores with food or vouchers, but also in https://www.alimentestaideia.pt/ with food donations or through financial support in https://www.bancoalimentar.pt/faca-um-donativo, from May 24th to June 2nd.

Furthermore, all companies in the food sector, such as producers, industry and distributors, can send their surpluses to the institution.

Find out more about the Algarve Food Bank through Facebook or Instagram. 

 

 

 

Photos and text by: Cátia Rodrigues, who is a finalist in the Master's in Communication and Digital Media at the University of Algarve and is doing her internship at Sul Informação.

 

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