In light of International Women’s Day, we speak to Maya Terro, founder of Foodblessed, a hunger-relief and food-rescue initiative dedicated to feeding the hungry while aiming towards sustainable food systems.
I cannot express how proud I am that so many people identify FoodBlessed as a community and not just a cause.
You started Foodblessed in 2012 to tackle food waste and provide hunger relief to disadvantaged people in Lebanon. What motivated you to start the project?
When describing myself, I always say I’m a life-long activist. In spite of the many challenges Lebanon faces on a daily basis, I have taken it upon myself to lead by example and be the change I want to see happen around me. That said, I think I’ve always been a food activist way before I knew that “food activism” was actually a thing.
With FoodBlessed, I was able to turn my passion for food and my pursuit of empowering others into a humanitarian mission that “nourishes” individuals, communities, and public institutions to promote positive change in their country, one meal at a time.
How serious is the issue of food waste in Lebanon?
Around 30 percent of the population lives under the poverty line – a third of whom exist in extreme poverty – approximately 30 percent of all edible food is wasted. FoodBlessed aims to provide a sustainable solution to the twin problems of food insecurity and food waste. More than that, FoodBlessed aims to replace the customary food-as-charity, needs-based model with a proactive rights-based approach to food security.
In addition to raising awareness about food waste within civil society, as well as offering practical solutions to reduce food waste, one of the central ideas behind FoodBlessed was to spread awareness about the fact that the needy are needy all year long. Normally people are most enthusiastic about helping and giving back to the community during special occasions like Ramadan and Christmas, whereas in reality, people suffer from hunger all year long.
What has been the most memorable highlight in Foodblessed’s history?
FoodBlessed has changed and enriched my life and the lives of those it touches in so many ways that I honestly don’t have a clear cut answer for this question. Whenever I am feeling hopeless or helpless (and believe it or not, the situation in Lebanon and its people make me feel like that at times), I remind myself why FoodBlessed was born. One look at my “Hunger Heroes” in action and all of a sudden my faith in humanity is restored. I cannot express how proud I am that so many people identify FoodBlessed as a community and not just a cause.
Your volunteers are called “Hunger Heroes.” Who is your hero/heroine and why?
I was always fascinated by superheroes, and that’s how the idea of “Hunger Heroes” came about. Batman and Spiderman were among my favorites. Superheroes usually possess supernatural or superhuman powers. But as I grew up, I realized that real heroes are not defined by their superpowers. A hero is someone with the ability to be fully willing to fight for a cause that is worth fighting for.
If you could run the country for a day, what would be the first thing you’d do?
Our country has been ruled by the longest-living current or former heads of state or heads of government; and guess what, the sweeping majority have been men. Historically speaking, regardless of background, women have been largely excluded from influential legislative and leadership positions. I would, therefore, work on expanding women’s access to influential positions in government and other leadership roles because, let’s face it, this country is not short of great female leaders under the age of 35.
Women are being celebrated around the world today. What advice would you give aspiring young activists?
I believe that every young person should promote change in his or her community by trying to share and embody the values that he or she feels most passionate about. Although I’m not a doctor (sorry dad), I know that I’m still saving lives on a daily basis and making this world a better place one meal at a time.
At the end of the day, I always try to remember that while many leaders can create change, only great leaders promote change while staying true to the essence of who they are. In other words, they passionately and stubbornly hold steadfast to their ideals, so they can positively change the world around them. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” I would add that it’s not just the greatest accomplishment, but one that you need to revisit every single day. Don’t let anyone tell you or convince you that you are not enough.
How can people get involved with Foodblessed?
I have three words: Donate. Advocate. Volunteer. I believe that anyone can do at least one of these; if not all three. You can find out more about the organization, food waste and ways to help on our Facebook and Instagram pages as well as our website.