Portadown project to help reduce food waste is bringing cheaper fruit and vegetables to the community

A new initiative to help reduce food waste and bring cheaper produce to those in need has been launched by a Portadown community group.

Richmount Rural Community Association, based in the Scotch Steet village area, is to share fruit and vegetables free or at a nominal price of 20p.

The ‘Save the waste and provide cheaper food’ project is open to all and aimed at young families and the elderly who are affected by the cost of living crisis.

The Association started the project by concentrating on fruit and vegetables, essential for a healthy diet but can be skipped when the money gets tight.

Some of the Elders availing of the prepack vegetables at Richmount Rural Community Centre's Fruit and Vegetable store at Scotch St near Portadown, Co Armagh. This week the sliced/baton carrots were free. The 20p packs included: cabbage, carrot/broccoli/cauliflower, sliced leeks, soup veg, carrot/turnips, veg stir fry and broccoli/cauliflower.

Community ‘appalled how much food goes to waste’

Joe Garvey, the Association’s chairman explained: “We were acutely aware of the rising cost of living including food costs; combined with this living in an agricultural community we were appalled how much food goes to waste. Out of shape or non-conforming size of fruit and vegetables are rejected by the supermarkets. Likewise in vegetable packing/processing there can be produce left at the end of the cycle for which there is not a market for at that time.

“We have managed to obtain a regular supply of pre-packed vegetables in perfect condition which we distribute either free or at token price of 20p. We get these mid-week and they immediately go into our cold store. Their shelf life is usually 4/5 days, but most can be frozen. A potato grower has offered to supply free ‘baby roaster’ Queens potatoes.

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An array of produce at Richmount Rural Community Centre's Fruit and Vegetable store at Scotch St near Portadown, Co Armagh. This week the sliced/baton carrots were free. The 20p packs included: cabbage, carrot/broccoli/cauliflower, sliced leeks, soup veg, carrot/turnips, veg stir fry and broccoli/cauliflower.

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Group grow their own fruit and vegetables

“When our own fruit and vegetables become ready for harvest, we will be trying to secure supplies of ‘wonky’ vegetables which would otherwise be dumped. To supplement, this initiative and to try and cover cost of running our cold store we also sell a comprehensive array other mainstream fruit and vegetables at very economical prices.”

At Richmount Rural Community Centre's Fruit and Vegetable store at Scotch St near Portadown, Co Armagh. This week the sliced/baton carrots were free. The 20p packs included: cabbage, carrot/broccoli/cauliflower, sliced leeks, soup veg, carrot/turnips, veg stir fry and broccoli/cauliflower.

The Association also makes full traditional lunches for around 50 older people every week and the supply of vegetables has helped keep the cost down.

Joe Garvey said: “Our older people come every Thursday to our centre from around 10.30am to 4.00pm. They get tea/coffee & biscuits on arrival and subsequently a full traditional lunch with a main course and dessert and tea/coffee together with a range of activity sessions. We have been struggling to try and keep these lunches at an affordable level but with rising food and energy costs it is getting extremely difficulty. The supply of free vegetable is a great help.”

Project is not grand aided

Joe explained that this project is not granted aid and the set-up costs of refrigeration and cold stores has been met by the association. He added: “If this project is viable and we get enough community interest, we would ideally want to extend this to other ranges of foods in an attempt to eliminate food waste and bring cheaper good quality food to those who would welcome such assistance. We would also envisage the possibility of introducing programmes for young unemployed people combined with training and give them the opportunity for work experience and to build up their CVs.”

Richmount Rural Community Centre's Fruit and Vegetable store at Scotch St near Portadown, Co Armagh. This week the sliced/baton carrots were free. The 20p packs included: cabbage, carrot/broccoli/cauliflower, sliced leeks, soup veg, carrot/turnips, veg stir fry and broccoli/cauliflower.

Joe explained: “As we are offering a comprehensive range of fruit and vegetables anyone can avail of this. We would emphasise that where possible we buy local, and we try to maintain the freshest of produce. However, we would especially wish to attract older people and young families to get the free or cut-price prepacked vegetables. We are aware that many families with young children are finding things financially difficult at the minute and as Autumn and Winter arrive there will be the added pressure of high heating costs. We are aware that fruit and vegetables should be an essential part of a healthy diet but can easily be skipped. We would also be promoting the notion that cooking fresh food is more economical and healthier than highly processed food.”

Initiative provides dignity and the opportunity to buy or receive fresh fruit and vegetables

Joe went on to talk about dignity: “Most of the people we come in contact with would never consider the option of food banks. They may well qualify but they would feel uncomfortable in asking - pride and dignity would be mitigate against asking for such help. In this initiative, yes, you may get some produce free or at a token price, but you can also buy other fruit and vegetables, so you are just one of the usual shoppers. I feel this consideration is very important for our rural community plus our service is continual- people come as often as they like.”

The association is developing displays and next week a large fruit and vegetable display unit will be installed after donated by a trader in Fivemiletown. Joe said: “We need people to come to our outlet see what we have on offer. It can only work with community support. This is a not-for-profit venture which is aimed to improve the quality of life of our community.

The facility is open: Wednesday, Thursday evening from 5pm to 7.30pm and Saturdays from 9am to Noon.

Produce arriving at Richmount Rural Community Centre's Fruit and Vegetable store at Scotch St near Portadown, Co Armagh. This week the sliced/baton carrots were free. The 20p packs included: cabbage, carrot/broccoli/cauliflower, sliced leeks, soup veg, carrot/turnips, veg stir fry and broccoli/cauliflower.
Freshly dug potatoes, sweet strawberries and courgettes at Richmount Rural Community Centre's Fruit and Vegetable store at Scotch St near Portadown, Co Armagh. This week the sliced/baton carrots were free. The 20p packs included: cabbage, carrot/broccoli/cauliflower, sliced leeks, soup veg, carrot/turnips, veg stir fry and broccoli/cauliflower.
Local strawberries have been a massive seller at Richmount Rural Community Centre's Fruit and Vegetable store at Scotch St near Portadown, Co Armagh. This week the sliced/baton carrots were free. The 20p packs included: cabbage, carrot/broccoli/cauliflower, sliced leeks, soup veg, carrot/turnips, veg stir fry and broccoli/cauliflower.
At Richmount Rural Community Centre's Fruit and Vegetable store at Scotch St near Portadown, Co Armagh. This week the sliced/baton carrots were free. The 20p packs included: cabbage, carrot/broccoli/cauliflower, sliced leeks, soup veg, carrot/turnips, veg stir fry and broccoli/cauliflower.