The baked goods section at Mary Louka?s snack bar in Aghioi Anargyroi, western Athens, is always buzzing with activity as customers gravitate to the lavish display of goods that are made fresh every day on site.
?This means that, unfortunately, at the end of the day, some goods go unsold,? the bakery/snack bar?s proprietor told Kathimerini. ?And though the products are very fresh, I cannot possibly put them on display the following day.?
Until recently, Louka had made a habit of collecting the some 10 to 15 cheese pies and other assorted snacks that were inevitably left over at the end of every working day and distributing them to friends. She was troubled, however, by the idea that there were people and families living nearby who were struggling to make ends meet and who were in urgent need of food supplies. Unemployment figures are running high in Aghioi Anargyroi, a neglected part of Athens, as more and more local residents find it harder to cover their basic needs.
It was in response to this need that the Oscar snack bar became one of the first members of ?Boroume? (We can), a new online initiative aimed at putting an end to the waste of leftover food and using it for a good cause.
Boroume is the brainchild of Xenia Papastavrou, a Food Bank volunteer, and the one responsible for getting the program up and running.
?Through my involvement with the Food Bank I came to realize that although both companies and private citizens were willing to help, on the one hand, and there was enormous demand for food supplies on the other, the two sides were unable to meet,? Papastavrou told Kathimerini. ?Through our site, www.boroume.gr, we aim to bridge this gap so that nothing goes to waste.?
While Greek households learn to live with reduced incomes and thousands of families are finding it harder to eat fresh, nutrition-rich food, tons of perfectly good food end up in the trash every day, thrown out by hundreds of restaurants, tavernas, bakeries and other food stores. The Boroume initiative invites all restaurants and food companies that have leftover food (no matter the quantity), as well as representatives of institutions aiding the poor, senior citizens, children, drug addicts or unemployed people who don?t have access to quality and nutritious food on a daily basis, to come forward and join the campaign.
As it turns out, says Papastavrou, those willing to help and those in need are usually not located too far from one another, eliminating to a great extent the need for transporting food over long distances or storing large quantities of supplies.
?When I got in touch with Mrs Louka in Aghioi Anargyroi, for instance, I found out that the local priest is very active in the area. Now he picks up the leftovers every day and distributes the food to the poor. The initiative?s dynamic lies within each neighborhood,? she noted.
Besides Oscar, more participating companies include the Venetis bakery in Filothei, a business that was also looking for ways to channel leftover products to those in need.
?While they tried not to allow anything to go to waste, they needed someone to coordinate their efforts. Now, one of the organizations on the receiving end is the Nea Ionia shelter for minors, north of Athens,? said Papastavrou.
The Boroume initiative is supported by the Food Bank, which in in turn works with more than 200 organizations around Greece. Overall, the Food Bank?s efforts contribute to the nutrition of 27,250 people per week.
Meanwhile, the Boroume website aims to operate as a database for a series of food-related efforts. For example, an initiative launched by the Kavatza restaurant in central Kolonaki — which served bean soup to more than 250 people on October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty — was posted on www.boroume.gr. Given the positive feedback from the event, the restaurant?s owner aims to continue his collaboration with the City of Athens and provide fresh food to the needy through the City of Athens?s food program.
The value of foodstuffs donated by companies operating in the production or trade of foodstuffs to the Food Bank is tax deductible, yet the moral satisfaction is the most important payback.
?When I see the priest coming in every day, I smile,? said Louka. ?I feel that I?m making a contribution.?