Strengthening the Community while Eliminating Food Waste

When I first heard volunteering was part of this study abroad program, I was excited to immerse myself in a whole new culture while giving back to the community. I have always enjoyed volunteering back home because of the bonds that are created, so I was looking forward to doing the same abroad. I knew the general layout of the program and a little bit of what I would be doing, since Professor Lane talked about FoodSharing Copenhagen in one of our meetings. Handing out food seemed pretty straightforward.     

The first day volunteering I remember feeling a tinge of nervousness, because this was a new experience with strangers and I did not know everything I would be doing. However, when I walked up to the Karens Minde Kulturhus and saw everyone standing outside conversing with one another, the nerves disappeared. The atmosphere was welcoming, and I could tell every volunteer was there for a purpose; to reduce food waste while building bonds with the community. While waiting for the food trucks to arrive, the main leader called over the people from the afternoon shift and gave us a pep talk. As a group, we took some deep breaths to clear our heads. During the talk, one of the volunteers jumped in declaring how grateful he was and how we are all doing such a good thing for the environment and public. In that moment, I had never felt so included and appreciated by a group of strangers. I felt like an insider, even though I knew I was not one because I had never volunteered with the organization before.  

When the food trucks arrived, a sense of urgency presented itself. Everyone rushed to make themselves busy, finding a spot in the unloading chain. I was not given a job or told what to do so I randomly picked a spot and started passing along boxes of food. I was surprised to be thrown into the chain without any instruction. The lack of structure in that matter, shocked me because the times I have volunteered in America, I was given a full rundown prior to starting my job. I was sure of what was expected of me. At FoodSharing, I was expected to take initiative from the get go instead. Personally, finding something for me to do was one of the most difficult things because I am so used to being directed. At times I found myself wandering around, searching for a job, although this did get easier the second time volunteering.        

As I walked through the door after unloading all of the food, I could not believe how many fruit and vegetables were being given away. The CNN video, “The Danish Recipe to Cut Food Waste,” expresses that “about one-third of the world’s produced food is either lost or wasted,” enough to feed three billion people. Physically seeing all of the food in the room put into perspective how much edible produce goes to waste on a daily basis. If one billion people are starving, you would think that an effort would be made worldwide to provide for those people through organizations like FoodSharing.   

A great success and surprise for me while volunteering was interacting with the diverse group of people who came to get food. Walking through Copenhagen I am not as exposed to a variety of different cultures frequently, so passing out food was a way for me to connect with people from various backgrounds. I was able to talk to others while they navigated through line, answering any questions they had. The free food was not only for low-income people, it was available to anyone who desired to contribute to the goal of reducing food waste. FoodSharing has accomplished uniting all sorts of people with differing stories under one roof, strengthening the community. 

Educating people about food justice and food waste is the first step in solving the worldwide issue. Simply letting people know about the amount of food that gets wasted every week will stir conversation. Conversation can then lead to action and a possible solution can be implemented. In America, people “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” (Pollan). The effort of the food movement has prompted people to question where their food comes from and be more conscience of their footprint, particularly in America. I see a shift already occurring in the U.S. with the existence of companies like Imperfect Produce. Imperfect Produce sells fruit and vegetables that grocery stores have deemed as undesirable, delivering boxes of food to people’s front doors. This company and FoodSharing both aspire to eliminate food waste. FoodSharing is more progressive in that they do not charge people for food, but Copenhagen is not money oriented as America. This organization constantly makes the effort to improve the environment while simultaneously improving community connections. I know I can take the knowledge I have gained from this experience home and educate my family and friends about the benefits of eliminating food waste. A conversation has the power to incite change. With conversation and action, hopefully food insecurity can be reduced. Without a doubt, FoodSharing Copenhagen has paved the way for a healthier and happier world.      

FoodSharing Copenhagen

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Being able to study abroad has been an experience that I never would have thought I could of ever be part of. While studying abroad in Copenhagen, I was able to volunteer some of my time to a great cause, which raised awareness of food waste. Food Sharing Copenhagen takes produce from local vendors that were not able to unload, and instead of sending it to the garbage disposal, it is given to the community.

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When I first found out that I would be volunteering, I was excited and prepared. I have volunteered a lot before, so it was not like I was going to my first rodeo. I was expecting to work hard, build a bond with the establishment. Fully understand how they run their program so I could efficiently help them and be an excellent asset to the team. Many of my volunteering has to do with STEAM-related topics, so this would be a bit different. I really wanted to see how people would react to taking free food, and what kind of people would show up to receive food for free.

When I first got to the establishment, I had to take just one bus from my dormitory. I arrived at Karens Minde Culture House; it was a charming little farmhouse attached to a library that the community could use. It was something I notice back in the United States. So it started off by having a quick introduction on what the goal of FoodShairng Copenhagen was and how they help out the community. After that, we were ready to work and have everything set up by 01:00 when everyone is allowed to get free food. I was astonished by how many foreigners were there to help, I met people from France, the Czech Republic, and many more places in Europe. They have a massive following, so I was not surprised by how much the community is involved. We began by cleaning down the tables and basket where all the fruit and vegetable will be held. Then once the food vans arrived, we created an assembly line to unload all the food and start sorting through it. After everything was prepped, the volunteer had first dips on whatever they wanted to take home. Then the general public was allowed to come in, I was surprised by how many college students came in to get food.

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Something I was educated on is how resourceful the teams were. They tried there hardest to keep waste to a minimum, it could be by using the bags that the food came in as trash bags or even the cases as a food handler. Then with anything else, they broke it down and sent it to be recycled at the local recycling plant by using an electric bike to carry it. As an outsider, I was able to give my input on how to dispose of the Styrofoam. Just set it in a bag on the bike and cutting it up inside. A quick but efficient manner without getting it all over the grass. Like how the Food Movement is Rising article spoke about Food Politics being a tricky subject. When the price of food drops drastically, it can hurt farmers, but with a program like this, we can help both sides. Farmers do not have to create excess crop’s to be able to turn a profit. Whatever the market does not purchase is then donated to communities in need. Creating a sustainable process that can limit our food waste because they don’t have to worry about the price is fluctuating.

With so many free choices to fruits and vegetables, it even can lead to new creativity. As we have read in the New Nordic Cuisine, they take into consideration only foods that are in season. Taking into account what is sustainable to the environment. A program like this allows many students to be able to experiment with new vegetables/fruits that they could never afford. With this new option at their disposal, creativity is allowed to flourish. Creating a laboratory in their home to and be able to get away from fast food culture. This mindset is laking in America, like how it explained in what American can learn from other food culture. We are so tied up to using specific products, no matter what effect they might have on our environment. It should be fine to replace tomatoes on a hamburger if they are not in season. This mindset is why the United States is on the top list of food waste. We don’t want to experiment with produce that is in the season. This type of mindset in America will lead us to create more environmental problems. We all could take a couple pages from FoodSharing Copenhagen, I know once I get home ill try to implement those practice much more.

Food Waste in Copenhagen

Never before this program had I ever been part of a foodsharing experience. Besides the short video on some of the people involved with foodshare Copenhagen I truly had no idea what I was getting in to. The concept sounded simple enough, leftover food somehow needed to be shared amongst the people of Copenhagen, but the execution of this plan was what surprised me the most. Our first day of volunteering we were not in the nicest area being that the jazz fest was going on and the outdoor area was taken, and we were able to set up in the community center upstairs. My fist impressions differed from what the video led me to believe definitely. What I almost immediately began to notice was that this was not as well run, and efficient as the video made me believe it would be. With no real chain of command and a lack of leadership the volunteers including the students like myself often needed to take the initiative with the cleaning of tables, setting up of trash bags, cleaning of food boxes, etc. Usually the “veteran” volunteers had to guide us with specifics on what to do.

I thought it was a shame initially that such a good idea that really benefited the community had such poor execution. But then I considered how these people that are running the program are learning as they go much as we were. On our first day volunteering actually one of the new obstacles they were facing was getting certified to be able to continue what they are doing. I think before I had began helping with the program I had anticipated it would have been much more streamlined, and it was surprising that even after their weeks and weeks of doing this they still had much to learn. One of the best things I think I was able to get out of working with this program was not only the vast amount of produce to bring back to our kitchen, but to see the good that foodsharing could do for people back home. Denmark like the US has a variety of food it produces, and also wastes, and to see their own efforts to cut back on waste is inspiring, and definitely something we could learn from. Seeing from the article The Danish Recipe to Cut Food Waste that they were able to cut food waste by 25 percent is honestly astonishing. Granted Denmark is a much smaller country than the United States and making that big of an improvement in food waste would be much harder. However the message proposed in the video by Selina Juul could definitely apply.

When I was able to bring home produce without having to use money of my own to get it I felt like this allowed me much more freedom to experiment in the kitchen. Like my interviewee Emil said, Americans are not very affluent at cooking at home, and even on this trip alone I have expanded greatly on the type of food I am capable of cooking at home. Part of the issue with college students and their cooking skills is that when they leave the home they are abruptly placed in situations where they either do not have a kitchen in their living situation, usually dorms, or they are not familiar with how to actually shop for their own food because their parents had done that their entire lives before they left the house. On top of this with “meal plans” that colleges provide for their variety of fast food companies that they house on campus usually, students are not inclined to cook for themselves when they can swipe their cards and be handed Panda Express almost instantaneously. The article The Food Movement, Rising goes into detail on why Americans have been relying on fast food, and it does no good for the student in my opinion to be so reliant on fast food caterers for their meals while at school.

Truthfully I think the foodshare program would be perfect to implement into college life. While students may be busy during the week with school, I think they could greatly benefit from the sense of community you get from helping others with their food, while also being able to save some money and get food for themselves. As I said earlier when there is food readily available literally for free, you feel more inclined to try to experiment, and learn how to cook with it. If students could spend maybe a couple of hours on Saturday helping their other students while also getting some free food the benefits would be huge. Shane from foodsharing on our first day explained that even with the massive amount of food they collect with their vans, they only save about 10 percent of all food that is being thrown out. That number to me was amazing simply because we had filled this one room to the brim with fruits, vegetables, bread, etc. everything that could make our own grocery store. If I have the time when I return home I would want to look in to how this foodsharing could be implemented in partnership through the school. For one in California we have such a variety of food found at our supermarkets that I am sure a massive amount of it never comes to the table. Secondly, with a partnership with the school the facilities that go unused on campus could easily be used for hosting the food events.

My New Perspective to Agricultural Biology

Resolving food insecurity in the United States is an issue I feel strongly about and is a career path I hope to pursue after graduation. I chose to study botany at CSUF with the intent to research methods to increase the affordability, sustainability, and accessibility of whole, unprocessed foods, although after my experience with FoodSharing Copenhagen, I found myself wondering if food insecurity was not so much an issue of inadequate food production, but an issue of poor food management and distribution.

Informational signage outside of the distribution site at Karens Minde Hulturhus.

From the small promo video shown in our classroom for FoodSharing Copenhagen to the CNN segment of “The Danish recipe to cut food waste,” one third of all the food produced globally is either lost or wasted, based on a publishing from the United Nations in 2011. Not only is food waste a huge economical and environmental problem, but is almost a ridiculously scenario to even perpetuate when considering the vast millions of people worldwide who spend days and nights literally starving—sometimes to death. There are few things that are absolutely essential to human survival, and with food as one of them, it is quite disheartening to know that so much of the world’s production is going to waste.

Midway through the food delivery during our second week volunteering.

I did not expect FoodSharing Copenhagen—a non-profit organization which distributes free food from grocery stores to people that would have otherwise been discarded—to be as large as it was. I wish I took photos of the sheer amount of food from our first week of volunteering. As I passed food along our human chain from the vans to the tables, I kept asking myself, “This really was going to be thrown away?” to the hundreds of pounds of edible food. I realized then that much of the world’s and the United State’s issues of food insecurity was indeed far from a productivity problem.

I was surprised by how casual and relaxed the full-time volunteers were, emanating a “youthful, carefree, hippy vibe.” I was also surprised by how mixed the backgrounds of the volunteers were. Most were young people either traveling, interning, or visiting friends over the summer and lived in completely different countries—very few permanently lived in Denmark. In a way, they were visitors like us, so I did not feel like an outsider amongst the volunteers or the diverse backgrounds of the attendees.

My haul from the first week. Each volunteer gets to put together a free bag of groceries as well.

As basic as it is, the most satisfying part of my service-learning experience was seeing all that previously dumpster-bound food going to new homes where they would feed hungry people. There is a belief in the United States that free meals/food should exclusively be given to the needy, but I was happy to see zero judgement towards neediness at FoodSharing. The organization’s mission was to simply prevent perfectly good food from going to waste. A disappointment or difficult part of the FoodSharing Copenhagen experience would be the lack of organization during the set-up process. I feel that with a little more direction for the volunteers, our time and efforts could have been utilized more efficiently.

After FoodSharing Copenhagen, I have been motivated and inspired to bring a service like this to the United States, or at the very least, to our home campus. I was fortunate to be elected this year as the Treasurer/Secretary for Associated Students Inc. (ASI), and one of the Board’s unanimous goals (a very rare occurrence) is to reduce food insecurity among our students. We were able to implement a pilot food pantry program last academic year but are determined to allocate the space and resources to a more permanent aid for those who are in need. While the United States no doubt has many restrictions in place around food distribution which hampers the development for programs like FoodSharing, I am curious to explore how these rules apply to a campus community, and what ASI and I can do to develop a version of FoodSharing on campus, perhaps by expanding the Titan Bites program or by collaborating with our Titan Student Union’s Food Court. I’ve already added this to my list of 2019-2020 goals not only as a personal passion, interested, and advocacy project, but as an obligation to the needs of the students I serve. Perhaps you’ll see FoodSharing CSUF in the next year or two!

Food For Thought

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.

FoodSharing Fun!

In the video “The Danish recipe to cut food waste” on CNN, they said that about one third of all produced food around the world ends up either lost or wasted. This fact in itself is shocking but when you add that all that food wasted is enough to feed three million people and that only about 1 million people are starving, it becomes clear that food waste and food justice are major issues that are not being dealt with efficiently. Due to this, it is easy to appreciate companies like FoodSharing Copenhagen and to understand that the work they are doing is extremely important. FoodSharing Copenhagen’s main goal is to work towards “a world where food is valued and is used to nourish people and bring them together, where foodsharing is part of our natural behaviour locally and globally, and to provide everyone (individuals, communities and businesses) with knowledge, tools and power to act, care and share/donate food, without any compromise.” This message comes directly from their website. We got the opportunity to work with FoodSharing as volunteers helping to set up and give out free food that would be wasted without this company.

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I knew we would be working with a food volunteering company on our study abroad but did not know exactly what we would be doing or anything about the company we were working for. The most surprising thing about our volunteer experience for me personally is the kind of food they had and the type of people that came to pick up the food. The type of food we unloaded from the trucks and handed out was way better than what I expected. When I imagined handing out food that was close to being wasted I could never have imagined how much they got and all the amazing quality produce and bread they had. There were tons of great fruits and vegetables and a big variety of both. The type of people that came were also surprising. I have worked at a food bank back in the United States and the people that came there were clearly in poverty. Here in Copenhagen when we served, most of the people seemed pretty well off and were not in dire need of this food. I think this speaks to the difference in volunteer culture within the United States and Denmark because in the United States you need to prove your need in order to receive help whereas here everyone is in much more equal standing financially so there is not a pressing need for charity.

The worst part about our volunteering experience was definitely dealing with the rotten and moldy fruits and vegetables. It was pretty disgusting, but the good part is that there was not that much of it. The part that I enjoyed the most was getting to actually hand out the food and see the people we were giving it to. I have always enjoyed volunteering and the part I like best is working together with people towards common goal. It really unites people and gives you a feeling of connection that is unlike any other. I learned about all the different types of produce Denmark had. In my mind I saw Denmark as this tiny island so I did not think they would have access to such tropical items like mangos. During the volunteering, I did not feel like an outsider at all. I felt connected and involved. We had a clear task to accomplish and I think we did so successfully. I think I might have felt feelings of isolation if I was unsure what to do or if I felt I could really play a role in the event, but neither of these facts were true.

The New Nordic food movement revolves around “the principles of purity, animal welfare, and sustainability” according to the Schroeder and Schroeder article. I believe that these ideas directly align with the idea of foodsharing. This makes this volunteering event connect with a key concept we have been discussing throughout our class and connects with the major theme we have been talking about: sustainability. I think the concepts of food justice and food sustainability are also connected. I think this experience has really opened my eyes to just a huge an issue food waste is and how there are many ways that we can combat this that we just are not doing. I think the United States is an especially wasteful country and that there will be serious consequences if we do not start working on cutting down food waste right away. Overall, I had a great time volunteering and thought it was a really rewarding experience.

Get on your feet, get up and make it happen!

Brittany, Shelby and me at FoodShare Copenhagen!

“Can we have one second to just take this all in? Everyone come and stand in a circle together. Please close your eyes. Let’s all breathe in, and out.” These were the motivational words of one of the leaders as we were being trained on the food safety handling our first day after arriving at FoodSharing Copenhagen. He then had each of us turn to our left as we did a message train, then our right and continued the message train. This was to lift our spirits and help us relax before we began handing out food during the second shift. This was after we had arrived to find that the truck carrying the food had been later than usual, so the first shift was behind, and we had inserted ourselves into the assembly line of people that would pass the food upstairs to the tables where it would be sorted and eventually taken by the general public. I remember thinking prior to this day that I was prepared to volunteer because I had a lot of volunteering experience under my belt, but I was very wrong. Volunteering in Denmark is not similar to it is in the States, in Denmark they expect you to take on a job, they do not assign you a task. Realizing this expectation early on, I began to see what those in the blue “FoodSharing Copenhagen” shirts were doing and would either follow their lead or ask if they needed help. I worked this way for two weeks learning what jobs needed to be done. I think this expectation I put on myself comes from the way Americans work, and the expectation is that we are told what task to do then the next and so on. At FoodShare Copenhagen, it is a collective effort, almost like a beehive in which everyone contributes to a common cause, and they automatically understand what the end goal is.

I definitely felt like an outsider looking in during the first two weeks. I think it was a combination of trying to understand all the food safety regulations, making sure all the work is done in a timely manner, and understanding how the organization is run administratively. Today, I found myself feeling like an insider. When we arrived, we had a little downtime, and there was a new volunteer who asked me about the sorting process and what was happening. I found myself using the word “we” rather than “they.” Although I have only volunteered for this organization for three weeks, I felt comfortable enough to consider myself apart of it where I would use the term “we.” The difference between being an outsider and feeling like an insider was that I do not speak Danish (most people assume I do) and that I am only a part of this experience for a short while (participating in three events). This connection gave me confidence to begin understanding what it means to be a part of a food movement to end food waste. It also helped me understand why the people participating enjoy coming back each week.

The largest surprise for me was how social volunteering is for Danes and travelers. I personally volunteer to socialize as well, but I usually have a circle of friends which I volunteer with at home. Here in Denmark, the Danes volunteer to meet one another and build lasting relationships. For example, last week I met Thomas, it was his first time volunteering and he knew no one. Today, he saw us, he knew everyone, and he was hugging multiple people in every group. It was exciting to see this transition. It has also taught me to be more outgoing with Danish and European people. Today, I spoke with a young woman from Hungary. She is visiting on holiday and went to FoodShare Copenhagen two weeks ago as someone from the public. Today, she volunteered and learned about the organization and how to save food waste. The first time I was participating I was so involved with my work I rarely stopped to socialize, but today I made it a point to converse with people and participate as the Danes do.

The line outside the first FoodShare day

What I learned most from this experience is that saving food and giving it to people who need/want it is not the only thing that matters but that it can also improve the environment. Michael Pollan writes in his article, “The Food Movement, Rising” that “for some in the movement, the more urgent problem is environmental: the food system consumes more fossil fuel energy than we can count on in the future (about a fifth of the total American use of such energy) and emits more greenhouse gas than we can afford to emit, particularly since agriculture is the one human system that should be able to substantially rely on photosynthesis: solar energy.” (1). As we have heard discussed in detail from various guest lecturers in both our classes here in Copenhagen, the new Danish government which has been newly elected would like to reduce levels of CO2. I think that if movements like FoodShare Copenhagen, we could see an improvement towards this goal. This might seem like a small footprint, but if larger countries like America did it, it might have a profound effect on the environment and at the same time help solve food insecurity in America.

This experience also taught me that it does not take a large effort to establish something profound in your community. Food justice is not something limited to Denmark, in fact it is a universal issue. “Globally, about one third of the world’s produced food is either lost or wasted.” (2) Knowing that a smaller nation like Denmark can make such a lasting and substantial impact in Copenhagen gives me hope that it might one day reach the States. “Denmark has reduced its food waste by 25% since 2006.” (2) This number has likely grown since 2006, and I hope that it is something the United States might consider. There is no reason we should be one of the most powerful nations in the world, yet we have children and families who go hungry. If I were to bring anything back to the United States with me, it is the knowledge that programs like this exists in other countries, they have people who contribute to them, and the benefits could very well outweigh the negatives.

Cheesy potato soup and garlic bread Shelby made with our FoodShare Food. The Best meal I’ve ever eaten!
  1. Pollan, Michael, “The Food Movement, Rising,” The New York Review of Books, Published: May 20, 2010, Accessed: July 16, 2019, https://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/the-food-movement-rising/
  2. “Danish Recipe to Cut Food Waste,” CNN World, Modified: July 21, 2017, Accessed: July 24, 2019, https://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2017/07/21/going-green-selina-juul-food-waste.cnn

Get up and Volunteer

When I was told we were going to be volunteering in Food Sharing my expectations were that we were going to be in a poor area, and we were going to be handing food out to poor people. I was also expecting to be told what to do or have some structure with the volunteering. I was expecting a lot of Danish people to be helping out with the Food Sharing, but instead, it was various different ethnicities helping. I was extremely shocked about the Food Sharing is a beautiful neighborhood. The first day of volunteering, we went to a room that was located on the second floor. It was small but very well established. I was shocked by the fact that everyone did their own thing and helped out we were not divided into groups we just basically arrived and joined the help. I was surprised at the fact that the people helping were not Danish but, Mexican, Peruvian, American, German, and more. The people that went to get the food was primarily Students or interns that have come mainly from Argentina. This was not what I expected, but it was still lovely.

 My Thought of the Organization is that they are very kind for giving back to the community. Who wouldn’t want to give back to the world, it is always nice to do so? I love that there are people that still volunteer every week with the organization. The one thing I can say is that they need to be able to communicate, their program is all over the place. They need to build a structure on how to get things done and passed out so that everything can go as planned. I was shocked when a person helping said that he was on his break? Usually, when I volunteer in the United States, I do not take a break unless I’m done with my work. 

The most challenging thing to do was getting the food inside the location where we were distributing the food. Also checking the food was a bit hard because I thought that the food was going to be ready just to be handed out to the public. Instead, we had to separate the good from the bad and place them in bins. The Satisfying thing about this was having a sense of happiness because we were giving back to the community. The only disappointing thing I saw was that the volunteers got lazy and did not want to help clean up. They rather sat around and chat with others that were not helping either. I found that rude because we were inside sweating and working while people were outside laughing in the fresh air. The great thing about Food Sharing was that I learned the value of food waste and how my country waste a lot of food, while they should just be giving it for free.

At first, I felt like I was an outsider because of the language barriers not being the same. Also, the way that I was confused with everything when arriving there. I was confused that there was no structure. The difference from being an outsider to the insider was that an outsider is going to be looked upon as a new person that has no experience. Another trait of being an outsider is being very shy and quiet. The insiders on the other hand, are very talkative are always smiling and are greeting everyone with a smile and hugs. My experience with outsiders and insiders is after an hour of being there I felt like an insider because I was getting along with everyone. I was speaking Spanish to the people coming in to get the food, so basically, I felt like I was a regular volunteer. My views on foods did change a lot in the matter that I waste so much food back home. I always buy too much food and let it sit in the refrigerator. So, a valuable lesson from this experience is to not waste food. When I go home if I have left overs I am going to invite my friends that are very low with an income to eat the foods with me.  

There are two readings that connect with my experience for example, Amy Choi states, “The introduction of global foods and brands has compounded food as a status symbol for middle-class Chinese. “Food as status has always been a huge thing in China,” says Mo. “Being able to afford to eat seafood or abalone or shark’s-fin or bird’s-nest soup, or being able to show respect to a VIP by serving them the finest yellow rice wine, is part of our history. Now it’s been modernized by having different Western foods represent status. It could be a Starbucks coffee, or Godiva chocolates, or a Voss water bottle. It’s a way of showing your sophistication and worldliness.”” This means that there is a type of status when eating food. So, my opinion is that if you go to food sharing, you are not part of the general public. In other words, only poverty are the ones that go to food sharing.

Another example that relates is when Carol Schroeder states, “Several major changes in Danish diet appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries. Considering that today potatoes are a staple in traditional Danish cuisine, it is surprising to discover that they were not grown in Denmark until the early 1700s. Potatoes were introduced to Danish farmers at that time by the French Huguenots, who had imported the potato from South America in the 16th century.” Yes, potatoes are very popular even at the Food Sharing. One of the days I managed the potatoes and let me tell you, it was bins and bins full of them. Everyone seems to take a lot of potatoes during the event.

Overall, the one thing I can take from my experience is that I can teach my friends and family the value of food waste. The reason for this is because we tend to buy way too much food, and it usually goes wrong. If I educate them, they will be saving money and helping the environment and community.

A Concept Americans Could Never Fathom (But Hopefully Will Consider)

When we were told that we would be volunteering with Foodsharing Copenhagen, I was excited because I had never heard of anything like it. Before we arrived in Copenhagen, our professor had told us that the organization takes vans to get food that would have been thrown out. The volunteers then lay it out on tables and give it away to those who wait in line for it. Going into volunteering with them, I had expected this straightforward explanation, but there ended up being a lot more to it. When we arrived on our first volunteer day, it was calm when Luke, one of the board members, gave us an overview of food sharing before our shift started. Once we got inside, it took a little while for everything to get started because the organization had recently been told they need to meet food and health requirements, which caused come chaos since it changed how they functioned. This had visibly thrown a wrench in their system because those who had volunteered there regularly were confused by all the new requirements, such as cleaning all the crates regularly, cleaning the tables, and throwing away any food that touched the ground and did not have a peel. I think the first week we volunteered may have just been one of their off weeks since there were new changes, but the other weeks still had their challenges as well.

Some of the food set out at our second food sharing event

This lack of organization surprised me because generally people who volunteer places in the U.S. regularly, know exactly what to do and know what position they will be in throughout it, but many of them did not. I think their volunteers also do not come to Foodsharing Copenhagen consistently every week and the new regulations made the process more difficult, so those could be some reasons for them not being as organized currently. The first shift was very interesting to experience since it was like nothing I had ever done, and it blew my mind that all the food they brought in three trucks was only 10 percent of the food that would be wasted. It was also interesting that people within a Copenhagen community decided to create this type of food sharing event because in America this type of thing would be sanctioned by the U.S. government.

While volunteering, I think sometimes it was hard for me to think about all the benefits of the experience because I initially focused on everything I noticed as different from volunteering in America. One of the incredible benefits is that when volunteering, I met people from Prague, England, France, and many other countries. It was so interesting to see so many people from different parts of Europe coming together for the common goal of reducing food waste and increasing sustainability. This helped me in accomplishing a personal goal of meeting people from other countries and having conversations about where we both live. I also really enjoyed handing out the food at the second shift because you got to see all the food dwindle, and people appeared to be grateful for receiving whatever was available. One of the difficulties I had with volunteering in Denmark is that sometimes the board members who volunteered weekly would get “breaks” which would be just standing around and not do anything for an extended amount of time. This bothered me because every organization I have volunteered for in America had the leaders working hard the whole time and delegating roles. I believe this is where our cultures may differ in volunteering because in the U.S. people are very concerned about getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and in Denmark, it was a little more relaxed. I think it was also difficult being an outsider because you did not get breaks and communication with some of the other volunteers or people who came to get food was difficult. This was also challenging because if they had a hard time speaking English, and we did not know their language, we had to think of different ways to explain certain things or use gestures. Although I had certain obstacles, it was fun to try to overcome them, and I learned to adjust to these new situations.

When I first heard about Foodsharing Copenhagen, I thought that it is an amazing concept because here you do not have to prove that you are low-income, and anyone can come that wants to reduce food waste. In the U.S. you would have to have some sort of form that indicated you do not make a lot of money and deserve to get free food because the notion is not to reduce food waste but to help those in need. I think once I participated in the organization, my view did not change because it proved to be an interesting idea to help waste less food. At this pace, I think it does not have the potential to eliminate food waste since they only pick up 10 percent of the food that will be thrown away, but it is still beneficial to allow people to get free food that would otherwise be thrown out. This experience changed my idea of food waste and food justice because now I am more conscious about the foods I buy and what I throw out, and you do not always need to buy the prettiest pieces of food because the ugly ones can still be edible. Selina Juul, a food waste advocate, explained that food waste is a problem world-wide because in places like America, it is easy to do, and no one thinks anything of it since there is so much food available. Since volunteering in Foodsharing Copenhagen, I have been more careful about what I buy because I watched those who came to get food strategically take only what they needed and would use. Based on what I have seen with those who volunteer for Foodsharing Copenhagen, I believe Americans have a lot to learn about being more sustainable with their eating habits.

The food sharing idea would be something I would like to bring home because in the U.S. food waste and food insecurity is a huge problem. Michael Pollan explained in his article that Americans have never had to think about the effect their wasting of food has on the planet because they spend less on it, cook less, and eat more processed food. However, I think this reducing food waste in this way would be difficult to bring home since Americans have the mentality that only those who are food insecure should be able to get free food. I think it would be difficult for people to understand that it is more about reducing food waste than helping those who cannot afford food. When I go back home, I think I am going to make those around me more aware of how much they buy and throw out because many people buy more than what is needed. This volunteering experience has truly enhanced my adventures in Denmark because food sharing is something I may never be able to get to do again in America, but it also gives me the opportunity to bring ideas from it home.

Shelby, me, Brittany, Rachel, Grace, and Emilia at our second Foodsharing Copenhagen event

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.