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Aberdeen students deliver surplus food from shops to locals hit hard by pandemic

Student Anna Kebke co-ordinates the group.
Student Anna Kebke co-ordinates the group.

A group of north-east university students have prevented thousands of kilograms of food going to waste by delivering it to people who need it the most.

The team of Aberdeen University students have been delivering surplus food from supermarkets to those unable to leave their homes throughout the pandemic.

The group of volunteers collect the leftover items from supermarkets as part of the FareShare scheme at selected local stores.

Before the pandemic, the university’s food-sharing service operated from the Student Union building.

Students could visit to collect what they needed – with the main focus being on reducing food sent to landfill.

When lockdown restrictions were imposed in March last year, students soon realised they could fulfill a wider need within the local community.

Between March and December last year, the food packages delivered by students prevented 15,000kg of food going to landfill.

The food donations from Tesco alone helped provide more than 20,000 meals.

Fourth year marine biology student, Anna Kebke, co-ordinates the group around her studies and caring for her three-year-old daughter.

Ms Kebke said: “We had established relationships with a range of local supermarkets and the university’s own catering services, and they provide us with slots at which surplus food, which would otherwise be disposed of, can be collected.

“The food is often seasonal and we receive a wide variety of items.

“A number of our volunteers recognized that their neighbours would benefit from the service we offer because they were vulnerable to Covid-19 or shielding and we expanded what we offer to the wider community.”

Those involved collected food from supermarkets, divided it into packages and dished them out to some grateful recipients.

Ms Kebke added: “We set up a Facebook page and a mailing list so that people could contact us if they could benefit from one of our food packages.

“Our volunteers have been fantastic, going out in all weathers – often on bicycles – to drop off supplies in the areas around the university.”

The food-sharing service is continuing to operate in a limited form with volunteers who have remained in Aberdeen.

It’s hoped it will get back up to full capacity once more students are able to return.

Sustain UK estimates that 8.4 million people in the UK are living in food poverty.

In 2019-2020 the Trussell Trust also reported nearly two million people in the UK used a foodbank.

According to Love Food Hate Waste, the UK reduced its household food waste by one-third during lockdown last year.

Research from food waste charity Wrap also found in the first two weeks of lockdown last year there was a 34% drop in the amount of potatoes, bread, milk and chicken wasted by UK households.

This figure was due to a change in shopping habits and changed attitudes towards food.

However, in June last year it was reported the levels of food waste increased.

The Aberdeen University group is seeking additional student and staff volunteers. Those interested should contact thecorner@abdn.ac.uk

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