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.