When I first heard about FoodSharing Copenhagen, I got a little nervous about what exactly we would be doing. I had been told that the food that was going to go bad or be thrown out would be redistributed to whoever wanted it. When I first heard this, I was concerned. Why would we be volunteering to give out old and expired food? But upon further investigation, firsthand experience, and better explanations, I realized it was not that simple. A lot of the food we received was good to eat, but grocery stores and markets just needed to make more shelf room or they were not able to sell the unique and “unpopular” products. These products were still edible; they just might not have been as fresh as the foods available in the markets. Not to mention, we made sure that if there were any bad food, it would be weeded out and taken care of immediately to make sure that none of our fellow food-sharers would get the bad food. This, however, was just one of the aspects of volunteering that surprised me.
Another surprising aspect of FoodSharing Copenhagen was that, unlike other charities like it in the United States, did not only cater to poor populations. Instead, the focus of this organization was to ensure better usage of food and eliminate food waste as much as they could. Even with the food we received that was not edible and had to be thrown out, it was still put in bags to be given to farm animals. I thought seeing this full cycle was yet another satisfying part of volunteering with FoodSharing Copenhagen. Even the food that was “waste” was still being used for good. I never thought about why we don’t feed our animals the food that will go to waste, in order to ensure better animal care standards and healthier animal diets. Of course, we often give our dogs scraps at the table, but taking it to the level that FoodSharing Copenhagen has done never occurred to me.
Before volunteering here, I had never known the amount of food that was being wasted. When we got to the location and saw the small size of the room we would be in, I figured there was no way we would be getting that much food. But, after the first van full of food arrived, the room looked like it was overflowing with food. When I heard that there were about three more vans full of food coming, I was sure they were joking. There was so much food! To think that all the food we were sorting was not even a third of food waste, I truly realized how much of a problem food waste poses. With children and adults suffering from hunger and food insecurity around the world, I realized the problem was really just the distribution of food. According to Selina Juul’s video on “The Danish Recipe to Cut Food Waste,” the food we waste could feed three billion people. With one billion people starving in the world, all the food we throw away could solve the problem of food insecurity.
Of course, we did experience some difficulties within the organization. Perhaps it is the difference in culture, but it all seemed very unorganized once the vans full of food arrived. We were trying to get the food in as fast as possible with little instruction on where to put it all. Even when we were given instructions, a lot of the lead volunteers would become frustrated because we were not doing exactly how they wanted in the rush of everything. I had one of the leads grab my hand and put me somewhere just to have him come back and tell me I was standing in the wrong area. Not to mention, with their attempts to make their organization more professional, the new rules they had set in place about sanitation were loosely enforced and confusing at first. It was evident that they didn’t know how to handle the rush or the new rules they had set in place, but we all made it work through teamwork and cooperation.
But, seeing people come together for this small organization from around the world was really one of my most favorite parts of volunteering. We had volunteers from Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, America, and even Greece. It was a great way to see the diversity that makes up Copenhagen. It was especially pleasing to see the care they had for the organization. Some volunteers were new like us, and some were experienced volunteers, but the care they had for the organization was evident throughout the volunteers. Due to the amount of diversity I saw, I never felt like an outsider in this organization. It made me feel a lot more like an “insider” in the sense that I was contributing to the city of Copenhagen, to the country, and the fight against food waste. As Michael Pollan’s “The Food Movement Rising” article states, “the food movement is also about community, identity, pleasure, and, most notably, about carving out a new social and economic space.” I definitely felt that sense of community as we all worked together to make a difference, not only amongst the volunteers but amongst the mass of people coming to collect the food. Stepping outside of the building, you could see people talking, laughing, and creating new connections just by coming to the event. As volunteers, we also made these new connections with people from diverse backgrounds and from around the world. Whenever we had a break, it was a chance to talk to people we may not have gotten the opportunity to meet otherwise. Since it is difficult to meet a Dane randomly on the street, meeting people through volunteer work made that a lot easier and helped connect us to the city we are visiting.