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Italy’s Last Minute Market


The Boot Country is bound by laces — in the form of laws — so deeply tangled that it often trips up good ideas. That’s why it’s encouraging to read about organizations who have managed to work through, or around, the legal knots to do something good.
For example, you’d think with the bounty of Italian cuisine, there would be plenty of re-distribution of culinary wealth: not so. It’s estimated that 450 thousand tons of food go to waste every year in Italian supermarkets. Until recently, it wasn’t legal to do anything but trash it.
Enter Last Minute Market, which gathers and re-distributes food (also in the form of seeds and crops), pharmaceuticals and books, saving them from the dumpster and distributing them to people who need it.
The drive was fired up by Prof. Andrea Segré, chair of the agriculture department at Bologna’s university, a full five years before Italy’s Good Samaritan law came into effect in 2003.
“Despite a thriving economy and reports of welfare reform success stories, a growing number of people in developed countries have sought emergency food assistance because households did not have access to enough food to meet their basic needs (food deficit). For a variety of reasons, the same developed economies produce a growing quantity of food surplus, this surplus is present everywhere in the food chain, from agricultural production to the retail system. Basically, not perfect enough sell but it is still safe and thus perfectly edible,”says the basic English explanation (in .pdf).
By the time the law came into effect, the organization was recouping 140 tons of a day (from cafeterias, supermarkets and farmers) to charitable organization who in turn fed 250 people and 500 dogs and cats in Bologna.
The feasibility studies run by Segré and his research team of six showed that the average supermarket (5,000 sq.m) could feed about 250-300 people every day on cast-offs alone. The experiment expanded to another seven towns, including Ferrara, Modena, Verona and Florence, and the service is now available in eight Italian regions with projects in the works in Argentina and Brazil. And similar groups have followed the example (siticibo in Milan is one) of the free food-cycling process.

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