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Dumpster diving for the poor

How an Italian woman is feeding hungry families

ROME –  After rummaging through supermarket dumpsters, 79-year-old Marta loads 90 pounds of edible food onto her bicycle every day. Three times a week she loads her car, and delivers the food to poor families in Casalborgone, a town about 20 miles from Turin. Her charitable work was highlighted in a Dec. 30 story in the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire.

Solidarietà in azione. Marta, a 79 anni recupera il cibo per i poveri in bicicletta

Tutte le mattine passa da tre supermercati di Torino e ritira alimenti che altrimenti verrebbero sprecati. Così aiuta 8 famiglie.


“It’s incredible how much is wasted. They throw out food near its expiration date or if the packaging looks damaged during transport. Recently, for example, there have been oranges. If one is bad, they throw out the whole ten-pound bag. It’s shameful,” explained Marta, who is retired and lives with her husband in Casalborgone.

Facing regular stares or criticism from curious or suspicious onlookers, Marta told reporters “it doesn’t faze me. I do it because I know there are people in need and who are waiting for me.”

Marta’s project began several years ago, with a family that was about to lose everything because of a crisis in the economy. Subsequently she learned of others in need. She said the eight families she now serves “always welcome me with open arms and with great decorum.”

“They have never asked me for anything and they never waste anything: with the flour they make bread, with the milk they make some cheese.”

Deacon Benito Cutelle of the Nativity of Our Lord Parish discovered Marta’s charitable outreach after noticing her digging through a dumpster. At first he thought she was retrieving the food for herself.

“I was mistaken,” Cutelle said. “She was not searching through the garbage for herself but for people who didn’t have anything to eat. I was really surprised. At her age she very humbly provides a service, an important service to benefit our poorest brothers. What she regrets is that when she’s too tired, there is no one else to help them.”

Marta, who says she has a lot of energy, commented “the politicians and those who make public policy decisions ought to realize the real situation and how much poverty there still is today.”

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