When you go to the local market to do your groceries, you are so impressed with the amazing colors of the vegetables and fruits that the first image that comes to your mind is taking a bite of your desired fruit or vegetable. Or, at least, that is what usually happens in my case. We see their shape, their colors, detect their smell… How much do they cost? Where are they from? And lately but not least, are they fresh? Starting to pick the best from the pile of vegetables, we leave the market. But, most of the times, we leave something behind as well. And that would be the pile of vegetables and fruits which have tiny spots, “special” shapes, different flaws. These are usually hidden by the vendors because they are considered unattractive. In the best of the cases, they are sold for a lower price but sometimes, in the worst of the cases, they are thrown away.

My name is Ioana Man and this is how my fight against food waste started. Back in July 2016, I was selected by the Society for Responsible Consumption (SRC) in Romania to take part in a youth exchange organized in Trento (Italy) by Eufemia organization. The project was called “Think global, act local” and it mainly targeted sustainability. I must admit I wasn’t that aware of our impact on the environment as consumers but, as soon as we were going through our program, everything started to make sense for me. The “Eufemia” organization inspired me with their project of reducing the food waste in Italy. I knew that, when I went back to my hometown, I had to make a change. It was like a homework I had established with SRC before I went to Italy. And I wanted to make the change.

I told Diana Calin (the co-founder of Society for Responsible Consumption) my idea about a project (called “No Food Waste” (” Fara Risipa”)) through which I aimed to reduce the amount of food waste. We both realized this would suit to our small town so we started to look for volunteers. The first to jois us were Raluca Naghiu, Anda Goia, Cosmin Georgiu and Raluca Popan. Then Laura Man, Andreea Mihailescu, Bogdan Popa, Casandra Ioan joined the team as well. It took us no more than two weeks for the first “visit” to the local market. And what we found there, left me with no words. Speechless!

We told the vendors who we were and what we wanted to do. To my surprise, almost all the vendors in the market asked us why hadn’t we gone earlier to collect the produce because they had LOTS! And when they said that, they weren’t kidding! Almost each of them directed us to a place where they kept those unwanted produce and they were many of them. It took us a couple of hours to go to all the vendors and collect the produce and, in the end, we were left with more that 100 kg of produce. Tomatoes, eggplants, cauliflowers, all kinds, and sorts of peppers, potatoes, and many others. We then shared them equally to three needy families. I used to think that I knew what making a person happy feels and looks like. But this whole experience made me rethink all that. The families were so grateful for the “gifts” we brought them and we… we were overwhelmed because we knew that, at the end of the day, we accomplished two things: we “cleaned” the market and we brought the smiles on the faces of some needy souls.

Our weekly visits to the local market kept on until late November. Our impact was amazing. We managed to collect over 800 kg of produce which we donated to over 60 needy people in the town and, most important, we managed to educate the vendors to reduce the food waste. Even though they still had unwanted produce at the end of the day, at least they weren’t throwing it away, but they were waiting for us to go to the market to collect it and give it to the needy.

Our latest accomplishment as a team is winning the REFRESH “Food Waste” competition which will take place in Berlin. This means inspiring even more people to act towards a more sustainable community. Educating people about sustainability is not easy. It is a time consuming process but it is not impossible.

It’s Spring now and the farmer’s market is scarce in produce but, as soon as the season comes, we will be out there again, ready to protect the environment and help people. As a future plan, we want the “No Food Waste” project to become more independent and work on its own. We also want to take the project into schools and start educating people about food waste from a lower age.

More info: Facebook

A part of the collected vegetables in just one day… (over 150 kg worth of produce)

A small bag of vegetables which were going to be thrown away