From Ideia to Movement

We live in a world where food in perfect condition is thrown away in the same places where people are going hungry. We live in a world of choices; we can choose to intervene in the unnecessary cycle of food waste and we can choose to open our eyes to really see – and care about – our neighbors who are in need food support. We can choose. 


The REFOOD idea was born from the desire to serve, from a conversation during a family dinner in a restaurant, and from the realization that one person can make a difference. The word that gave rise to the idea was “alternative”, giving restaurants the option of not throwing away their excess food. That was the lightning bolt moment of the Refood idea, followed by the biggest obstacle to any proposed innovation: the decision to actually do it. 


Launch preparation started with the identification of potential food source partners, beneficiary partners and a study of the logistics involved in collecting surplus food daily – on a bicycle with baskets fore and aft. On March 9, 2011, Refood was launched with 30 restaurant partners and two churches (who helped by identifying potential beneficiaries), in 7-block area in central Lisbon. Two shifts of 15 restaurants each produced 1,000 meals a month – enough to ensure high quality meals for 50 people, 5 days a week …


The volunteers came together when they saw the work being done. Refood made the news after 6 months, winning a prize and many more volunteers joined up – allowing our first expansion and the doubling of productivity and impact.  

In 2012, a volunteer led Refood’s first “organic” replication. In 2013, Refood launched a call-to-action that resulted in the formation of 10 new teams in 10 new communities. At the end of 2014 there were 8 Centers in operation and at the end of 2015 there were 24 Centers in operation …


At the end of 2019, with 60 Centers in operation, Refood had 7,700 volunteers, 7,000 beneficiaries, 2,500 food source partners and was rescuing 2,250,000 meals a year (preventing 1,125 tons of bio waste from entering the waste cycle). 

The COVID-19 crisis has been a challenge, but also an opportunity to innovate, adapt, consolidate and prepare for global expansion. 

Today we also have teams in operation in Madrid (Spain), teams in development in Milan (Italy), Richmond, Va. (USA) and Salvador de Baia (Brazil), and new tools ready to boost our global reach – to bring the Refood Movement’s proven benefits to communities worldwide. 

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