Belfast’s ‘food hero’ collects free items from Tesco to reduce waste and help local community

Marta Budzynska regularly visits local Tesco stores around Belfast and fills her cart with food destined for landfill.

She may look like any other shopper in the supermarket, but the difference is that Marta gets all that food for free and when she gets home she gives it all away.

Failure to do so will contribute to the food waste pile in Northern Ireland which accounts for up to 25% of the contents of our non-recyclable bins.

“I didn’t realize how much food goes in the bin every day, it’s terrifying to be honest,” the 33-year-old told Belfast Live.

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Her dedication has earned her the rank of “food waste hero” on the food-sharing app, Olio. The app encourages its users around the world to post their own unwanted food and other household items for redistribution in their communities.

Globally, its users have shared 35 million servings of food, which is equivalent to saving 101 million car miles and 5.1 billion liters of water.

Those who volunteer to collect food from local stores, like Marta, are trained in the safe collection, storage and distribution of food.

The mother-of-one living in east Belfast first joined the app in February to help cut her own food expenses. After a week, she was trained and volunteered in her local community.

In the space of a month, Marta conducted about 25 food drives and distributed over 300 items.

She said: “The app is growing really fast right now. When I joined a month ago, within the 1.6 mile radius of my area, there were more or less 2,100 people.

“Now I see there are 2,400. So in one month in this area, about 300 new members have joined. I hope more people and more companies will join, so that together we we can fight to reduce the amount of food waste at the end of the day.”

The latest statistics reveal that UK households waste an average of £700 a year throwing away food.

Besides helping to reduce this statistic by using apps like Olio, Marta pointed out that using it is a great way to meet more people.

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Marta said: “I’ve been locked down working from home for the past two years due to coronavirus so I’m so happy that Olio has given me such confidence to go back there and meet people. I’m so happy to do so.

“Over the past month, I’ve probably met about 40-50 new people. Every day, I check to see the new food and who added it, and ask to meet people, and collect myself food.”

For those who want to lower their food costs while reducing the amount of produce they waste, Marta said the Olio app is very easy to use. She even added that checking it out to see what offers you spot can even be addictive.

“The app is very simple to use, it’s similar to Gumtree. There are lists people can post, articles they give away for free,” she said.

“There’s also a category for non-food items that people don’t use anymore, like household items and clothes. I think that’s great – one person’s trash is someone’s treasure. other.

“I took a few toys for my son and also donated a few items. It’s really a great way to share and avoid waste.”

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Christy J. Olson