is widespread, mostly far from obvious, sometimes cloaked in shame. Portugal
Among those taking concerted action against hunger is an American with a dynamic project he is developing throughout
and spreading to urban areas in other regions of the country. Lisbon
Hunter Halder, 62, originally from a village near
, is the brains behind
the so-called Re-Food programme designed to help end both hunger and food waste.
Launched in Lisbon 2011, it so far involves 750 volunteers collecting and repackaging food from more than 300 outlets and distributing it daily to about 850 beneficiaries.
Almost all of
’s 24 parishes now
have a Re-Food team, either already in action or being formed, says Halder. He
has introduced the system to Lisbon Oporto and just
last weekend he ‘seeded’ the idea at two
well-attended meetings in the .
While targeting other cities on the mainland, he also hopes to set up teams in
the Azores and Algarve Madeira.
The scheme is intended to complement the work of the Portuguese federation of food banks and private charities running soup kitchens. They have been working together in
, helping each other
where they can, even though Re-Food operates in a somewhat different way.
“What Re-Food brings to the table,” Halder explained, “is an abundance of excellent, ready-to-eat food every day at no, or almost no, cost.
“This is a very big deal because reducing food insufficiency is only possible if massive amounts of food at practically no cost can be obtained daily.
“We target every single scrap of excess prepared food within our neighbourhoods by going to every café, restaurant and grocery store every day they are open.
“We raise a team of hundreds of local volunteers - walking, riding bikes and using cars when necessary - to harvest 100% of the previously wasted food, every day, rain or shine.
“We deliver that food to people who are not being served by existing institutions, be they homeless, jobless or in any other condition that leaves them without the means to secure the food they need.
“We go door to door to find and serve those who are ashamed of their need and who, therefore, are practically invisible.”
The project is totally non-profit-making and no one connected with it is paid anything.
“We want everyone who ever serves or donates to this project to know that 100% of their effort, goodwill or resources will be applied exclusively to expand the benefits of our work,” says Halder.
Although he describes the project as being still in the early stages of development, he is optimistic that
can become the first city in the world with virtually no food waste and no
hunger. He foresees no limit to the Re-Food model and believes it can go
national, even global. Lisbon
Using four basic criteria - reducing unnecessary food waste, reducing food insufficiency, strengthening community ties and replication – he is happy to share the Re-Food model with anyone keen to implement it.
The charismatic Hunter Halder has lived in
for 23 years. His first visit was during a pilgrimage to Fátima in 1988. He married
a Portuguese tour guide with whom he had a son. It was his son Christopher, now
24, who came up with the name Re-Food and co-founded the project with his
Before that, Hunter’s two young daughters from his second marriage frequently commented about wastage in restaurants and this inspired him to do something about it. His daughters, Mayara, 22, and Raissa, 19, are now both involved in Re-Food.
Halder’s sights are set high, but because of his organisational and operational skills he remains pragmatic.
“It is, of course, impossible to end all food waste,” he conceded, giving as an example the top of the onion you cut off and throw away when making a salad.
“But it is possible to end the trashing of enormous amounts of perfectly good food. The Re-Food model can achieve this because of the power of community mobilisation and the fact that we work at the local community level.
“With respect to ending hunger in
or anywhere else, a dose of humility and reality is in order. We have always
had hunger with us and it will not go quietly away. That said, it is also true
that the public and private institutions, as well as businesses and citizens,
have worked, and are working, to alleviate hunger. All of these
efforts are needed. Lisbon
“Our strategic trajectory has always been to complete our work on the micro local level, replicate throughout the city of
and then throughout all cities. Lisbon
“But reality does not follow strategic models. We began replicating throughout
and beyond long before completing the
full implementation in the original parish. Lisbon
“Similarly, we began replicating in other cities long before
has been fully implanted. We expect to
be replicating internationally long before completing our national work. Lisbon
“We have to try to build the capacity to respond to all who want to replicate. The project is universal and we intend to make it universally available,” said Halder.
So far, the project has encountered remarkably few difficulties. The biggest was taking the initial decision in March 2011. Since then it has been easy-going, except for the work involved, of course.