Boroume, (“We Can”) is a non-profit organization in Athens, committed to reducing food waste by distributing surplus of food for those in need throughout Greece. The organization runs primarily on volunteers and the support of individuals and companies who donate food that BOROUME places with charities that help the needy.
I am Nick Politakis, a Greek American. I started volunteering for BOROUME in 2013 during a seven month stay in Greece.
We often ask charities how many people they are aiding, and the answer is always higher than the last time we visited
Early in 2015, I decided to retire and now I am back in Athens volunteering again at the House of BOROUME, working on different projects and initiatives. One of those is BOROUME Gleaning which was created in 2014 and is the first gleaning program of its type in Greece. It involves farmers making their excess crops available to BOROUME volunteers who pick them and then provide them to various charities that serve the needy. Recently BOROUME received a call from a farmer in Tripoli who had pears that were perfectly eatable but had been damaged by a hail storm. I was very much looking forward to my first gleaning experience. Representatives from BOROUME organized the event and fourteen volunteers took part. It was a Saturday and the weather was glorious. We traveled by car to Tripoli from Athens which took about two hours. All of us who took part were really looking forward to the experience. For many of us it was our first time gleaning. I was curious to see how much we could accomplish in a few hours. We brought many plastic bags with us and in just a few hours we filled them with delicious fresh pears. There were many acres of trees that were full of fruit. We were given ladders by the farmer but we did not use them much since the fruit hung low from the trees. In about 3 hours we gleaned 1 ton of fresh pears. The pears went to several charities, including a local nursing home in Tripoli. A representative from the nursing home came with his truck to pick them up and was very thankful. We loaded the rest of our fruit into our cars and dropped them off at various charities in Athens. After it was over, I considered what a shame it would have been if all this delicious fruit went to waste when there are people who need it. It was hard work but it was well worth it to know that our actions would provide some nourishing food for those who need it.
With all the people facing hunger, I wish more farmers with excess crops would pick up the phone and call BOROUME. It is so easy and there is hardly anything for the farmer to do other than show us where the crops are. BOROUME’s model of providing charities and social services that help the needy with donated leftover food depends on many individuals and companies. It also depends on the charities and municipal social services to distribute that food to those they serve. BOROUME uses a database of organizations that help the needy and at the moment they have about 1,000 organizations all over Greece in the database. Volunteers at the House of BOROUME receive calls related to food donations and serves as a bridge between the organizations and those in need.
In about 3 hours we gleaned 1 ton of fresh pears
BOROUME visits all the organizations on their database at least once a year to fully comprehend their needs. The visits are conducted by teams of volunteers and there is a questionnaire that we complete. I recently visited three such organizations. One was a municipal social service department in Attica which provides various services to the needy citizens in its jurisdiction including food from the municipal food market. We visited the food market and it happened to be a day when there was a distribution of food going on. There were bags of food staples that were prepared. People were waiting in line to receive them.
With all the people facing hunger, I wish more farmers with excess crops would pick up the phone and call BOROUME
We often ask charities how many people they are aiding, and the answer is always higher than the last time we visited. Unfortunately since the resources of the municipality are limited, there is a waiting list for people to receive help. We also visited a church which cooks meals from donated food and delivers them to parishioners in need. On a daily basis they cook several hundred meals and they have volunteers who deliver them. Most churches who help the needy run soup kitchens so this church does things differently. We talked to the parish priest who explained that they can serve more people this way. He also explained that people feel better having a home cooked meal in their house, rather than waiting in line to eat at a soup kitchen with others they may not know. Again we heard the same story that more and more people are facing food insecurity, especially the elderly.
Finally, we visited a daycare for the developmentally disabled. The care for about 40 people of various ages with various disabilities and they provide a lunch during the day. Funding for this facility has been cut by two thirds. They are barely making ends meet.
As we document the needs of each organization, we are better able to match them with food donations in their area. One of the best things we can do for them is to match them with a business that has leftover food that they could donate on a regular basis such as a bakery, a supermarket, or a restaurant. This is something that is happening already as many other charities have been “bridged” with such businesses and they get a steady supply of food on a regular basis. BOROUME is working with one of the largest supermarket chains in Greece, AB Vasilopoulos. To date, 153 of their supermarkets provide leftover food on a daily basis to charities in the vicinity of each supermarket.
I was so moved and impressed by my volunteer experience and the BOROUME model to help the needy that when I went back in the U.S. that I established Friends of BOROUME, a 501c3 that would allow U.S. residents to support BOROUME directly. I held two successful fundraisers in my hometown of Baltimore to support BOROUME.