Angela and Maria, the volunteers collecting food surplus for the Social Tables Ghirlandina

Here are some tips to make the most out of five bags of stale bread and a box of green beans collected last Monday at Mercato Albinelli in Modena.


Name: Angela Covili

Age: 62

Location: Social Tables Ghirlandina

Job: Pharmacist

Role: Volunteer

If I were a recipe… Tortellini


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Name: Maria Buono

Age: 53

Location: Social Tables Ghirlandina

Job: Accounting

Role: Volunteer

If I were a recipe… Arancino 


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Refettorios and Social Tables rely on volunteers for a variety of tasks: some stand by the door welcoming guests and inviting them in, others serve the guests at the table and make sure everyone is having a good time, some volunteers help the chefs in the kitchen to turn surplus ingredients into healthy and balanced meals…

At the Social Tables Ghirlandina in Modena, volunteers are also in charge of going to the market to collect food surplus from the stands of Mercato Albinelli, Modena historic market. Every Monday afternoon, two volunteers push a shopping cart down Modena’s cobblestone streets. As they go around the market, they ask vendors for their unsold produce – fruit, vegetables, meat, and sometimes even flowers! The collected ingredients are then handed to the chefs, who are able to turn them into a nourishing three-course menu, a real treat for the body and for the soul. Among the volunteers who collect produce form the market, there’s Angela and Maria. Last Monday, we went with them to Mercato Albinelli and we had the chance to get to know them better.

For Maria, this is the first experience as a volunteer. She found out about the project thanks to a friend of hers, who is also a volunteer at the Social Tables Ghirlandina. Angela used to volunteer for a different organisation, providing assistance to people with disabilities. Both of them are driven by a great sense of responsibility, they take their commitment very seriously and they hardly skip a day. Last Monday, despite the rain, they wore their best smile and delivered a shopping cart full of fruit and vegetables to the chefs of the Social Tables Ghirlandina.

Both skillful chefs in their own kitchen, Angela and Maria know a few secrets to reduce food waste at home. “We should definitely buy less and in season, and always prefer local markets and grocery shops over supermarkets,” suggested Angela. “When you have something that is about to expire, just cook it: this way you’ll extend the lifespan of the product,” pointed out Maria.  

Maria, originally from Agira – Sicily – shared with us two of her favourite recipes from her region: meatballs made with stale bread, eggs, cheese and mint – to be baked or fried – and croquettes made with boiled potatoes, stale bread, eggs, garlic and mint: “You can’t imagine how good they are, I often prefer them to meat!”. A great idea to use up the five bags of stale bread collected at Mercato Albinelli! “And what would you do with this beautiful box of unsold green beans?” We asked. “Easy.” – said Angela, “Just cook them with butter, cream or yogurt, which you can always find in the fridge. I would make a quiche or a pie!”

What ingredients can they not live without? For Maria, who comes from Sicily, it’s lemon and chilli peppers, while Angela, whose favourite dish is handmade pasta, would never go without flour. And if you cook too much pasta? “Just mix it with eggs and parmesan cheese and put it in the oven: the result will be a delicious baked pasta!”