“If we don’t do it, who will?”: Food Sharing Copenhagen sets out its mission to end food waste

A food sharing organisation in Copenhagen has a vision: a world free of food waste, where food is valued and shared.

Food Sharing Copenhagen is one of Demark’s largest volunteer-led organisations working to raise awareness on food waste and prevention.

They formed in 2016, after a group of like-minded individuals felt it their moral imperative to do something to help reduce food waste in their community.

Since then, they have built wholesome relationships with local fruit and vegetable suppliers, and wholesalers who make regular donations – their demand is simple: if you don’t want it, give it to us. 

The chair, Saimon Skurichin, who has volunteered at the organisation since 2016 says: “In the face of climate change, waste of resources, health issues, lack of communities and challenges of loneliness, our project brings us all together over a cause that has a positive ripple effect into many of our lives and people we help.”

Their figures are impressive, in 2019 alone, their collective efforts helped save over 13,000 tonnes of food waste and nourish over 16,000 people. 

Every week they collect surplus food from businesses, including bread and dry goods that would have been thrown out to waste and share it with hundreds of people.

The food sharing events take place twice a week and take an army of dedicated volunteers to run.

When I was last in Copenhagen, pre-Covid, I arranged to volunteer at one of their events. In true Danish spirit, I hired a bike and set off early morning to one of their distribution events at the Karen Minde culture house in Syndavn, a cultural centre in a pretty leafy neighbourhood.

It’s the kind of place you find students and young families with children, basking in the sun or using the facilities at the children’s centre or the Syndavn library, they are both conveniently close. To the right of the centre a pavilion stands erect, all the doors and windows are open, it’s inviting.

As I entered the pavilion, I welcomed the shade from the morning sun. It was airy. I was instantly overwhelmed by the crates of food spread across the floor.

Volunteers paced frantically trying to arrange everything to some form of presentability. The donated produce ranged from bread, almost-stale pastries, and an array of fruit and vegetables. I was in charge of sorting the apples, three variations and approximately 10 crates. 

The ambiance was lovely once the chaos of setting up was over. There were approximately 40 of us volunteering. I saw the incentive too, as the volunteers were able to go around and help themselves to produce before the event opened up to the public. 

As the eager crowd drew in, I could see how they were meticulously calculating how much food they ought to take for the week, ensuring that they too would be limiting their waste.  

Very quickly I felt as though I was a part of a mindful movement.

There was a moment of true beauty when a woman wearing blue passed my apple bench and said with watery eyes: “Thank you so much for what you do, I have children, I don’t have much money, and this helps.”

Her warmth gave me more merit than my one day of volunteering deserved, I had only been there a couple of hours, but I instantly felt as though I was part of something. 

As I caught up with Skurichin, months after I had volunteered, he told me of the positive impact they continue to have: “We can see that we have become a part of solution to the problem and it makes us very proud of our work and community.”

They are currently facing the challenges of holding distribution events during the pandemic, yet they persevere. “If we don’t do it, who will?” he says. 

Food Sharing Copenhagen offers a welcomed alternative to the way that food banks work, there isn’t a distinction between those who are accessing the services based on financial disadvantage or those who are simply making an ethical choice, when I mention this to Skurichin he eloquently says: “Unconditional sharing says it all.”

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