The Food Bank (Fødevarebanken)
Author(s): Henrik Korsgaard and Susanne Bødker, Aarhus University
Case study type: Local Initiative
Keywords: Food sharing, policy, strategy
The foodbank (Fødevarebanken), that is dedicated to large-scale re-circulation of groceries and other food produce between donor organizations and a variety of NGOs and (semi-)public organisations that aim to increase health and living-conditions for socially vulnerable people and families. These organizations include homeless shelters, orphanages and breakfast clubs in local schools. The foodbank is organised as an NGO with a core group of employed and volunteered staff in three locations in Denmark. The foodbank is primarily funded through donations and redistribute food produced donated by producers, distributors, and to a smaller degree, retails and surplus food from selected events (e.g. festivals and expos). The foodbank has been operating since 2008. In 2018 they recirculated 1080 metric ton (approximately 2.7 million meals).
There are multiple reasons for the significant food waste within the donor's distribution chains: Overproduction to ensure retail and consumer demands, mitigation of quality issues occurring in distribution, logistical issues and hold-ups in the distribution chain, and issues related to expiration dates and shelf-life expectancy in retail. Some examples include packaging misprints or breached batches where on item is broken on a pallet. Although sending food produce to a controlled destruction facility can be a costly affair, it is often cheaper than fixing the isolated issue(s). All in all, a wide range of products (canned foods, dry-goods, bread, vegetables, candy, soft-drinks, juices, diary etc.) that previously would have been destroyed, is now being donated to the foodbank for the purpose of redistribution. Thus, the foodbank offers an alternative to the costly destruction of produce that also offers a different public image to the donor's in relation to overproduction and food waste within the sector.
The food items are distributed to member organization that cook to feed socially marginalised communities and people in need. These organizations have professional kitchens and staff who undertake the planning and cooking and hence also have a budget and documentation of the cooking process to be taken care of. Through the donations from the foodbank it is possible to raise the quality of the food. At the same time, the recipients pay a handling fee to the foodbank, and there is a standing concern for value for money, and generally for the budget.
The practical redistribution is done by volunteers who typically come to work for the foodbank one half day a week. The volunteers have specific shifts, mainly driving the weekly pick-ups, re- packing the food within the warehouse for distribution and then driving the weekly delivery routes to the recipient organizations. When joining the foodbank, they are trained in how to handle food produce, warehouse registration, and how the deliveries operate. Typically, new volunteers are trained by the employed staff and then assigned a shift with experienced volunteers. The staff handles the connections to the donors, the PR side of the business, including getting new volunteers, donors and recipients, and they are responsible for processes of compliance with legislation regarding the handling of food. The staff has a brief meeting with the volunteers at the start of every new shift, and generally volunteers and staff meet at the shared lunch. The food is distributed on weekly delivery routes. The vans are packed by volunteers and staff prior to driving the route. Here they balance what is in the warehouse with the number of routes and expiration dates to minimize food waste at the food bank and provide a balanced mix of produce for the recipients. In route, the volunteers meet the kitchen staff at 'their' different recipient organizations and get to know what food items the staff prefers and can make use of, and they use this to negotiate with the staff to 'take more' of various food items when these are in stock.
The Foodbank was studied throughout 2018, and involved multiple participants from the foodbank, donors and recipients in various degrees. Collaboration was initiated with the Aarhus branch of the foodbank in an informal manner as a potential case for student projects and research. The collaboration ended mid-October 2018. Activities included also design activities, participant observations and frequent meetings with the staff at the foodbank throughout 2018 to coordinate activities and maintain a shared understanding of the proposed activities and outcomes.
The primary research activities have focused on the intersection between the (at times conflicting) objectives of the Foodbank – minimizing food waste and redistributing excess food to people in need – and how the Foodbank work with the data they generate in quantifying and qualifying their impact and daily operations.
More details: The case has been presented and discussed in two student projects by Lisa Borum and Niklas Nørregaard, AU (material available upon request to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Publication: Nathalie Bressa, Kendra Wannamaker, Henrik Korsgaard, Wesley Willett, and Jo Vermeulen. 2019. Sketching and Ideation Activities for Situated Visualization Design. In Proceedings of the 2019 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS '19). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 173-185. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/…