BOROUME means We Can!

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Hellenic Lifestyle sat down with Alexander, one of the three BOROUME founders, to discuss their initiative, goals and supporters!


Boroume WE can

BOROUME means we can!   What is the message that you want people to know from BOROUME?

On a funny note…. just to clarify it is not from the Obama campaign as some foreign correspondents who had visited us during our elections in 2012 wondered.

Xenia one of the other founders came up with the name after hearing it on a TV show (in Greek) and thought it was a great name for what we are trying to do.  It is an open statement that allows us and our volunteers to keep realizing that we can do what we are doing and so can you.  This  initiative began with the three of us, Xenia, Alex and myself. 


Have you been surprised by the outcome?  How far did you think it would go in the beginning?

When we first started, having been volunteers ourselves in different areas for many years, we just thought we would try to help out a few people and see where it goes.  We had no business plan and no set goals.  We wanted to do something with all of the food waste that we were seeing and just knowing that there were hungry people just around the corner made us want to connect the two together.   It is an ugly oxymoron between the waste and need; that people are throwing away good food and a few streets down someone else is so hungry. 

Food saving was really a new concept here.  We have soup kitchens and some centers that collect packaged dry foods, but home cooked food or fresh food was being dumped and had no where to go.   People had no idea about what a difference they could make by just making a phone call.

“We want to combat food waste and get it to the people in need!”

It was in our having to be inventive in the beginning that helped format this different kind of plan.  Usually organizations have the manpower and transportation to collect and distribute but we didn’t.  We didn’t have unlimited funds to organize such a thing.  We didn’t have our own trucks and drivers able to make pick ups.  So we found a way to connect the institution in need with the establishment that was giving.   We started to combine our efforts.  We found ways to make the donations and receiving of the food easier and almost effortless.   This saves time and is more convenient.  We’ve realized that people will give much more easily if they can do it with less effort.

“The key was to get the recipient to go there to the source. “



What did you start out receiving as a food donation and where are you now?

We started with only 12 cheese pies!  We now give an average of 4,000 meals per day and have passed the 2,500,000 mark.  When we calculate figures by then end of March, I’m sure our new results will be over that.

  95% of this food would have been wasted!

Gleaning oranges


What kinds of people are you meeting and what do you want them to know?   

We are meeting so many people.  We get emails everyday from people who want to volunteer and others who wants know about our program.

boroume offices

Our educational program which is aimed at schools is what we’d also like to share.  We have helped to change a perception for food waste awareness.  The difference between us and others around the world, that reduce food waste, is that many started from an environmental standpoint; to reduce the waste causing environmental problems. but for us it was purely humane.   You’d be surprised at how many people in your own neighborhood are hungry.  We have been promoting the importance of not wasting but donating in your own neighborhood.  This is where our educational program is important.

volunteer wall

volunteers and founders

How do you stay strong in the face of this desperation for one of our basic human needs?

It does hurt to know what is going on but there are more and more days that the hair on my arm stands up from what people are doing.  We had a company donate all of the food leftover after a large event and we were able to not only feed  many people but give them some kinds of food that they never had been able to taste before.  Another time someone had a wedding on an island and we were able to organize the transfer from the island to the port of Piraeus. During that time though families were found that were supported by the Municipality there and we were able to give the food to them. 

We realize that each group of people can and should have a role.  We know what our role is and our capabilities.  We cooperate with welfare institutions and do not take on the role of a social worker.  We do choose where the food donation goes in terms of the recipient welfare organization. What we do not do is to control the beneficiaries of these organizations, which we leave to them of course.   

The next step is with municipalities and the government in general.  There needs to be a synchronization with all institutions.  We need to organize a way to make sure that people don’t take advantage of the system.

Has social media helped spread the word.  How else can you spread the word.

Of course!  Social media has been helping us to spend the word and to inform people about what we are doing which is so important.  We have also had to use to to correct misinformation about the collecting of food.  We had a situation where someone posted that you should leave food hanging in bags outside of the trash bins.  This is not something we promote.  We want a collective and organized system of getting the food to an environment that is much more appealing and satisfying for the person in need.  We want them to have some dignity and eat in a better place.  They don’t need to grab the bag off the trashcan and go sit on some steps to eat it.  We want them to eat with silverware surrounded by others exchanging some conversation and laughter.  It only takes a phonetical or checking online to find a nearby drop off point to have the food donated. 

There is the famous saying that “You Are What You Eat”.  Let’s find a way to let the people in need have the food but in a place that is more dignified than off of a trashcan and in the street.  We need to change this way of thinking for those that donate by this method.

Unfortunately  FaceBook is now finding ways to charge you to boost posts and this is something for  NGO and a charitable institution that I wish wasn’t the case.

boroume book

These people are hungry because they lost their jobs , wouldn’t finding ways to train them for work or creating new kinds of job help them out more or is there someone else doing such a thing for them?  For example there are plenty of lemons on every street corner, why not collect them, give some to the home owner and turn the rest into lemonade or use for cooking?

What we are doing right now we consider the emergency stage.  We need to feed people.  Ultimately finding jobs for everyone would be ideal.  Thankfully because of what we are doing we have now created five new jobs.  There are many other third sector businesses that are employing at a faster rate than any other sector.

There are also legal issues about having people climb on ladders, take and share what they pick, etc.  We do have a gleaning program in place where volunteers can go pick produce (BOROUME on a plot of land –  ΜΠΟΡΟΥΜΕ στο Χωράφι).  We actually managed to save more than 4 tons of produce in 2014 alone because of this program!

Picking gleaning oranges

What kind of establishments have been donating to BOROUME?

Bakeries are the bulk of the donations and then social events that call in and offer to give us what was left, also make up the other kinds of establishments that we collect from.

We’ve been very grateful to the supermarket chain AB (Alpha Beta).  They are pioneers in the supermarket industry here and have been donating currently from  93 of their stores and have a plan in action to include 100% of their stores by 2016, that will be giving us products that have slight damage to packaging, items that have limited shelf life, ready to eat meals, dairy products, baked goods, etc.   If we could get the other supermarkets to collaborate as well it would be fantastic!

You have some sponsors – what is it that is still needed?  Do the sponsors only cover a certain percentage?

We are in constant need for fund raising.  This is an all year round project.  Some sponsors come for only a short period of time while we really need all the help we can get 12 months of the year, every year.  We are still a very young organization and are constantly trying to promote and fund raise.  For those in the U.S. a former volunteer, Nick from Maryland,  and now a friend of ours has created a “Friends of BOROUME” FaceBook page where those in the U.S. can find out more and help from that side.  This is a 501c organization and your donations are tax deductible.   Nick is right now organizing a fundraising event for April 29 in Baltimore at the Ikaros Restaurant. 

What are other ways people can help?

On our website you can find many tips and further information. and any kind of generosity in monetary donations will greatly help us reach more people in need.

You can also be a volunteer.  We have a great group of volunteers that are happy to help in many ways.   They are part of fixing a big problem here.  We are an organization that answers every email that we receive and have the utmost respect for every single volunteer.  We know how it is to be a volunteer and we don’t want them feeling like they are being taken advantage of.     

What do you think the future will bring – how can we better organize the current system?

The most important thing and our goal is awareness.  My dream is that someday people will have the fist instinctive actions to call BOROUME and not throw away their leftovers, bakery items or super market products.

This also means knowing about laws and policies.  We came across a law that was making it hard for establishment to donate as they were being taxed while if they threw it out they wouldn’t be.  Happily this law has now been changed.

We hope for less roadblocks in connecting people, better laws that benefit those donating, and help from the media in promoting the right information.

Before you throw away a food item please check our site to see how you can easily donate it; you’d be surprised but there is someone living very closely to you that could really benefit from your help!

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