by Róisín Kilroy
As former Joyce’s stores across Galway city and county transform into Tesco outlets, Athenry’s local community turned out in droves to welcome the new addition on its opening day, last Thursday, November 4.
Opened by Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte, the main theme of the opening of the Athenry store was community, with supporting local charities being the focus of the celebration. Tesco managers and staff came from all four corners of the country to open the new store, with Director of Communications for Tesco Ireland, Rosemary Garth saying that the event was, “just fantastic to be able to engage with the local community in a meaningful way.”
Tesco’s presence in Athenry brings it’s community fund, which has become colloquially known amongst Tesco customers as the ‘blue token fund’, to the area. The community fund scheme has been running since 2014 and sees local staff and management nominate and choose three charities four times over the course of the year to be highlighted in stores as part of the fundraising initiative.
“We think it’s lovely and it’s a really great way of making a connection with local charities.
“It means that the people from Athenry can vote for causes and charities that are specific to Athenry. So if there’s something really important to the local community and Athenry there’s the ability to support those causes,” said Garth.
Since coming to Ireland in the 1990’s, Tesco has established a philanthropic approach to local and national groups across the country. As well as the community fund, Tesco was the first retailer to go into partnership with food surplus programme, FoodCloud back in 2013. FoodCloud is an organisation that seeks to “transform surplus food into opportunities to make the world a kinder place”. FoodCloud has been partnered with Tesco since 2013, being the first retailer to back FoodCloud and its aims to reduce food waste by taking “surplus food” from Tesco and providing it to families who need it via local charities.
Foodcloud has three bases across the country, one in Cork, one in Dublin and one in Oranmore which serves the Connacht region. With the new store opening in Athenry, any surplus food from the shop will be sent directly to the FoodCloud warehouse where it can be distributed to charities in the local area. A FoodCloud truck was present on the branch opening, distributing free portions of veggie and meat chilli created from surplus food from Tesco stores.
Iseult Ward, one of the co-founders of FoodCloud, was present at the opening of the Athenry branch and she said that the heightened presence of Tesco stores in the area means that more donations will go to helping in the locality.
Ward explained, “any surplus food here will go to our Oranmore warehouse where it can be distributed to help charities and organisations who need it nearby.”
The partnership between Tesco and FoodCloud has become hugely popular, to the point that FoodCloud, an Irish company has expanded to the UK to work with Tesco stores there. Alongside FoodCloud, there are other initiatives to counter food wastage, such as Olio an app used to promote food sharing, and the ethos is something that Garth says, Tesco is passionate about.
“We believe that no good food should ever go to waste, so we do a lot in all our stores to minimise food waste. We have gotten very good at ordering and predicting what the customer demand is, but no matter how efficient you, are there will always be an element of food waste.
“We are absolutely adamant that food shouldn’t be just thrown away and we have a number of ways to make sure we can support all of those in need through our surplus food.”
Along with the community fund and the FoodCloud, as part of its 25 years in business in Ireland this year, the company has placed specific emphasis on community outreach programmes.
Tesco provides food parcels to children and families experiencing food insecurity via the DEIS school network. A food parcel pack comes with a variety of fruit and vegetables along with recipes on how to cook nutritious dense meals using the ingredients using things like microwaves, all in an effort to make a hot meal accessible for all during the current cost of living crisis.
The company has also partnered with The Children’s Health Foundation supporting the nations children’s hospitals and has donated seven million euro to the organisation since the commencement of their collaboration in 2014, making them the biggest private sector fundraiser in the country.
Fianna Fáil Councillor for Athenry, Shelly Herterich Quinn, joined members of her local constituency for the opening, commending the town’s new addition, saying that the previous “lack of choice” for consumers in the town saw a significant amount of money leave the local area.
“Personally, it is wonderful that I can shop much more locally now, but from a councillor’s perspective and from an economic development perspective, I think it’s going to be transformative for the town because it will retain all of that revenue and people will now feel happier to spend in local shops.
“We know that approximately eight million euro was leaving the town in revenue every year, to shop in places where there was choice. People were going to Loughrea, Oranmore or to Tuam because they had various other stores to choose from. So when we heard that Tesco was coming, we were very excited. It is a fabulous day for the community. Tesco give back and we are all very well aware of that.”