It Begins in the Community

When I first learned that I would be working at Foodsharing Copenhagen I had very few expectations. I thought that there wouldn’t be many people showing up to get food and that the people who would come through would be low income. I expected my experience at Foodsharing to be like any volunteer work that I had ever partook in- I’d show up, be assigned a position and work for a specific amount of time.

I was surprised to learn that Foodsharing Copenhagen was poppin’- many people of different ethnicities and income levels came to collect food that would’ve otherwise been discarded. I also worked alongside people from around the world. While the experience was similar to American volunteer work in a sense (I worked a certain shift) the instructions were vague and nobody was assigned specific positions. The program ran very efficiently despite the lack of thorough instructions. Another big difference between volunteer programs in America and in Denmark is the purpose of the event. This event would have been targeted toward people of a lower income in America, but it wasn’t in Denmark. When I posted about the event with the caption “free food” on my Instagram story, Foodsharing Copenhagen reposted my story with “aka rescued food”. The Danish program was geared towards eliminating food waste and was happy to give the food to anyone who wanted it. My appreciation for Foodsharing Copenhagen grew when I learned that everyone was welcome partake in facilitating and taking food.

At first, it was difficult to find myself being of use to the program. With a lack of instruction, I felt confused. I asked questions and nobody seemed to be bothered, rather, they were all willing to point out areas where help was needed. The whole process was satisfying- seeing everyone come together for a cause, setting up/cleaning a facility, discarding inedible food, filling crates with fresh food, and distributing food to a diverse group of people. Seeing a hall go from nothing to something was amazing and required a lot of hard work. At the end of each shift, I felt content, knowing that I helped make an impact in the community. I don’t feel disappointed with my experience with Foodsharing Copenhagen. I feel nothing but inspired by the success of a grass roots organization that is being kept alive by community members with a single mission- to lessen the ever-growing problem of food waste. I learned that all it takes to keep a successful program going is hardworking and driven volunteers.

I may have been an “outsider” in the experience, but I didn’t feel like one. There were a couple people who were new to the program and they faired just fine as well. Matter of fact, the main man who oversaw Foodsharing Copenhagen had only arrived in Copenhagen this past September. The main difference between me, an “outsider”, and the “insiders” was experience. The “insiders” were always willing to answer questions.

I learned that food justice starts within the community. The events that I volunteered in took place in the Karens Minde Kulturhus- a community center with a library, computers, a playground, horses, and a room with panels that could open (the food sharing took place here). Conveniently, the food that didn’t get taken or composted were fed to the horses. Hosting a food share event at a community center (which is also near a train station) made it assessible to members of the community. I am now convinced that food justice needs to occur on a small scale in order make any sort of an impact.

In the video entitled The Danish recipe to cut food waste, Selina Juul mentions that the reason why people waste food is because they can. I believe that for similar reasons, people attend and volunteer at Foodsharing Copenhagen- because they can. Instead of using the logic to be destructive, people can use the logic for better. Abundance doesn’t have to be an issue. Michael Pollan stated, “Americans have not had to think very hard about where their food comes from, or what it is doing to the planet, their bodies, and their society.” Since Americans are careless about obtaining food, more food waste occurs. At food share events nobody knows what they will be able to acquire but the purpose of the event makes people more aware of the impact of their decisions.

If I could educate others about food justices, I’d begin with community efforts. Food share events should be available in every community. I’d then explain that every food choice made at grocery stores is important. Everyone should differentiate between what they want and need. Abundance is greater in the US, so more consumer awareness is required. Overall, if I communicate the idea of community action and self-awareness, I believe that larger scale food justice can take place.

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