Foodbanks and their Relationship with Social Inclusion

With an increasing need to transition to a circular economy and combat climate change, and with Ireland currently generating approximately 1 million tonnes of food waste annually, FoodCloud wanted to measure its contribution to social inclusion through redistributed food and enlisted Interactions help to achieve this. 

Following a review of existing FoodCloud surveys and reports, and comparative research of the Monitoring and Evaluation approaches taken by comparable organisations nationally and internationally, a draft set of outcomes and impacts was presented to FoodCloud internal stakeholders. During this workshop, potential indicators for each outcome were identified, agreed on, tested with several Community and Voluntary Organisations (CVOs), and feedback was received.  

 Survey templates were developed and piloted with community partners, providing a strong baseline for future progress measurement. Ten areas of impact were identified as below; the survey utilised 30 indicators across these 10 areas. 

Impact on CVOs (Direct)   Impact on service users (Indirect) 
  1. Food provision 
  2.  Spending 
  3.  Food waste 
  4.  Reach 
  5.  Collaboration  
  6.  Resources 
  1. Food needs  
  2. Education/Awareness 
  3. Social connection/Well-being
  4. Dignity 

 Providing access to food for those who need it is the primary role of the CVOs surveyed with 73% citing this as the most important to their users; reducing food waste is less important at 47%. 

Nevertheless, an overwhelming 75% of CVOs assert that none of the received food goes to waste. It was also found that CVOs heavily depend on FoodCloud as their predominant source of surplus foods, with a substantial 69% relying exclusively on FoodCloud.  

This framework also highlights the importance of food donations from FoodCloud, as using these could mean that CVOs could reallocate funds to other areas, e.g., utility bills. CVOs could support more people with surplus food, as well as offer a bigger variety of food and more appropriate food to their users, including treats; having choice and appropriate food offers dignity to users.  

The primary motivation for service users engaging with CVOs is predominantly linked to financial constraints, according to 60% of respondents. However, 37% reported that it also helps to combat isolation and maintain connections within their community; our research showed that side effects of providing surplus food to users included: 

  • Having someone to talk to/confide in 
  • Helps them to develop social skills and build relationships within their community 
  • Encourages healthy eating 
  • They learn food skills such as food hygiene and cooking, menu planning and budgeting 

The findings from the pilot survey underscore the significant role FoodCloud plays in addressing food needs within communities, showcasing its effectiveness in mitigating both economic challenges and social isolation. To find out more about FoodCloud and it’s services click here 

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