We are lucky, living an enviable lifestyle in a glorious part of the country that we have come to call home. For many, putting something back into the community that has treated us so well shows not only appreciation, but also a wish to help those who are less fortunate.
Twice a year, supermarkets along the Algarve take part in a vital campaign to raise awareness of those who are hungry and to ensure foodstuffs are collected for distribution to the most needy. We talked to Nuno Cabrita Alves, President of the charity institution Banco Alimentar contra a Fome Algarve (the Food Bank Against Hunger), who coordinates the programme and supervises ongoing activity.
Tell us about the project?
For the past 11 years, as part of the national campaign, we have run two food collection programmes each year across the Algarve – usually at the end of May and the end of November – under the heading Campanha Nacional de Recolha de Alimentos. Goods collected are warehoused in Faro and in Portimao.
How many people do you help and how do you find them?
We estimate that we deal with around 15,500 people each year – more in times of crisis, up to some 23,000. The families and individuals come to us through 106 different institutions including local councils and social security services, each of which has direct contact with those in need of support.
Without the work of the Food Bank, these people would be severely suffering. We distribute 2,000 tons of food annually which represents nearly 92% of the food supplies distributed in the region.
How frequently do those on the programme get food packages and how long do they last?
Once a month each institution collects and distributes products with an extended life – such as tinned goods and dried items like rice and pasta – from the Food Bank and twice a month they collect fresh goods, like fruit and vegetables.
The Food Banks themselves – do they come under a foundation, or local government?
The Food Bank is a community initiative and a private not-for-profit institution. The two warehouses belong to the city councils of Faro and Portimão and are free of all costs. Necessary equipment has been funded by private donations and the day-to-day expenses we incur are met by the city councils and through government initiatives, and sponsors of the various institutions.
“We have currently 55 volunteers but we are in need of 15 more”
How do volunteers get involved – what exactly do they do in the supermarkets and at the food bank?
Volunteers are stationed at the supermarkets that take part in the programme, usually for three-hour shifts. They issue shoppers – as many as they can – with carrier bags stamped with details of the most-needed items – milk, oil, cereals, tin food, sausages etc. Those shoppers, hopefully, fill the bag they are given, pay at the checkout, and hand their purchases to the volunteers, who in turn pass them on to the drivers who travel from one supermarket to the next, fill up their
Tell us about the night-time unloading – what happens to the food stuffs collected?
At the warehouse there are more volunteers. When the bags are unloaded they are weighed so we know how many tons we have collected. The food is separated by type and placed in containers or on racking. Everyone works so hard but the atmosphere is marvellous – a celebration of people’s generosity and caring for the less fortunate.
How many volunteers do you have presently, and how many more do you need?
We have currently 55 volunteers but we are in need of 15 more.
What else can volunteers get involved with that will help the project?
Volunteers are needed to visit the institutions to see how the food is being stored and distributed. We also require on-going help with administrative work and in the warehouse itself. And we have a new project called ‘Horta Solidária’ the objective of which is to plant vegetables – we need volunteers to help with that, too.
How long does the food collected and stored last the Bank?
The food collected in each campaign lasts for six months from collection. At the end of that period, the food bank is completely empty and the campaign process starts again.
How old is your oldest volunteer – and the youngest?
Ages go from 30 to 75 years old, and many bring youngsters with them for an extra pair of hands.
Do you seek money donations, too? And if so, how does one donate?
Yes, we accept donations in money although we only seek them for improvements and equipment. Donations can be made through bank transfer to PT50 0045 7100 4021 2076 2355 5.
Who does one contact to enquire about volunteering opportunities?
An email to Silvia Gabadinho – firstname.lastname@example.org is a good starting point. We would welcome you.