A community association has just launched a new initiative to help reduce waste and bring cheaper food to those struggling with the rising cost of living.
Richmount Rural Community Association, which is run by volunteers and based in the village of Scotch Street, Portadown, has started off the project by concentrating on fruit and vegetables.
Chairman Joe Garvey explained: “ We were acutely aware of the rising cost of living including food costs; combined with this, living in an agricultural community we were appalled how much food goes to waste.
“Out of shape or non-conforming size of fruit and vegetables are rejected by the supermarkets. Likewise, in vegetable packing/processing there can be produce left at the end of the cycle which there is not a market for at that time.”
The group has managed to obtain a regular supply of pre-packed vegetables in perfect condition which they distribute either free or at token price of 20p.
He said: “We get these mid-week and they immediately go into our cold store. Their shelf life is usually four to five days, but most can be frozen.
“To supplement this initiative and to try and cover cost of running our cold store we also sell a comprehensive range of other mainstream fruit and vegetables at very economical prices.”
The community association also makes full, traditional lunches for some 50 older people every week and the supply of vegetables has helped keep the cost down.
The project is not grant aided and that the set-up costs of refrigeration and cold stores has been met by the community association.
Looking ahead, Joe said: “If this project is viable and we get enough community interest, we would ideally want to extend this to other ranges of foods in an attempt to eliminate food waste and bring cheaper, good quality food to those who would welcome such assistance.
“We would also envisage the possibility of introducing programmes for young unemployed people combined with training and give them the opportunity for work experience and to build up their CVs.”
Joe said anyone can avail of the service, and that they especially wish to attract older people and young families to benefit from the free or cut-price prepacked vegetables.
He said: “We are aware that many families with young children are finding things financially difficult at the minute and as autumn and winter approaches there will be the added pressure of high heating costs.
“We are aware that fruit and vegetables should be an essential part of a healthy diet but can easily be skipped. We would also be promoting the notion that cooking fresh food is more economical and healthier than highly processed food.
“Most of the people we come in contact with would never consider the option of food banks or the like. They may well qualify but they would feel uncomfortable in asking – pride and dignity would mitigate against asking for such help.
“In this initiative, yes, you may get some produce free or at a token price, but you can also buy other fruit and vegetables, so you are just one of the usual shoppers.”
The community association is developing its displays and next week a large fruit and vegetable display unit will be installed after having been donated by a trader in Fivemiletown.
A potato grower has also just contacted the association and has offered to supply them with
free baby roaster Queen’s potatoes.
Added Joe: “We need people to come to our outlet see what we have on offer. It can only work with community support. This is a not-for-profit venture which is aimed at improving the quality of life of our community.”
The facility is open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings from 5pm to 7.30pm and on Saturdays from 9am to 12 noon.