A new community pantry is being inundated with demands from students struggling to afford basic food supplies.
Inspired by an initiative run in his hometown of Clonmany, Co. Donegal, NUI Galway student Adam Mullins set up the service that allows shops to donate whatever produce would be going to waste.
These products are then dispersed among students instead of ending up in landfill, with the pantry aimed at combating the rising cost of living and large amounts of waste in supermarkets.
“When I first moved to Galway, I was like ‘Jesus Mum, I’m really struggling to afford to eat good food here, and I know you have set up [a pantry] – what’s the odds of me setting one up here?’
“So then, at the start of this year, I contacted the Students’ Union again and Róisín put us in contact with the SocsBox and basically then we just worked through the kind of paperwork and the behinds the scenes of it,” Mr Mullins said.
Mr Mullins is now working with the Students’ Union and the SocsBox in the University to work towards providing a more sustainable city.
“If we don’t give it out it goes in the bin and we get somewhere between four and ten or 12 crates of food that we collect, or it goes in the skip.
“It can be anything from fresh veg to frozen meat to like pre-prepared meals and stuff like that, so we take it here and sort it out. It’s literally stuff that goes in the bin or goes to students’ apartments,” he said.
Mr Mullins must wake up at 9am every day to accept donations via the FoodCloud app, because if he fails to do so, they could lose their donations.
“It’s just Clonmany Food Centre and FoodCloud are like the hands feed us and then like the SocsBox and the SU are like our sugar Mamas or sugar Daddies, like they’re giving us all the money and keeping us afloat,” he said.
However, the pantry stressed that their service is not just for students, and that it is for anybody who is looking to live a more sustainable lifestyle or would like to save money.
“It’s for anybody, we want everyone that comes in here to save a tenner, or I just can’t afford it, just come here,” Mr Mullins said.
Eddie Sheehy, who also helps with the pantry, said that “practically everything goes within the first ten minutes.”
The rising cost of living is also becoming a hindrance for the pantry volunteers, as rising fuel prices mean that running to and from supermarkets multiple times a week without any reimbursement is an out-of-pocket expense.
Ailbhe O’Connor, SocsBox manager in the University, runs the logistics around food safety in the pantry.
“Adam and Eddie drop [the food] in, and then basically once it’s on campus I basically just becomes my responsibility, which is nice and easy because Adam and Eddie are realistically doing the hard part.
“Even with the larger deliveries we’ve gotten, no is the answer. We don’t meet demands, which is a bit depressing, but that’s the reality of the situation,” they said
So far, the pantry has saved over 600 kilograms of CO2 emissions with the waste-reduction initiative.
In the future, they hope to widen the pantry to a city-wide scheme.
They are open from 4-6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
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