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7 groups fighting food waste around the world
By Katherine Martinko,
Treehugger, 19 June 2016.

Food waste is a serious problem, with an estimated 40 percent of all calories grown for human consumption getting lost or wasted along the way from field to fork. This is particularly tragic when you consider that nearly 800 million people do not get enough food to support an active life and that poor nutrition kills 3.5 million children each year (nearly half of deaths in children under age five).

A growing number of people are taking action against food waste, creating start-ups and groups within their communities to combat food waste. Most involve the redistribution the surplus food to local charities, while others cook and serve food that would otherwise go to waste. These groups are slowly saving food, diverting it from landfills, and feeding the hungry. Sometimes these actions go even further, as shown by India's Robin Hood Army, which crosses political borders and breaks down cultural boundaries in the process. Slowly but surely, change is happening, but the no food waste movement needs more volunteers and greater awareness in order to spread. See what's available in your own community; perhaps you can make a difference, too.

1. Kromkommer

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Kromkommer is a Dutch organization whose name means “Crooked Cucumber.” It was created when two Business & Economics students, Jente and Lisanne, learned how much produce is thrown away each year because of irregular shapes, blemishes, even just for being too big or too small. The women launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that resulted in the production of a soup line that uses exclusively wonky vegetables.

Kromkommer has held urban celebrations of imperfect produce, serving and selling thousands of kilograms of produce that would otherwise be thrown away, in an effort to educate people about these usefulness of these foods, despite their unusual appearance.

In a letter to French supermarket chain Intermarché, famous for its “Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables” campaign in 2014, Kromkommer argued for a better approach:
“We think crooked cucumbers, heart-shaped potatoes and other so-called ‘inglorious’ fruits and vegetables are way more fun and extra special. So why would you call them ugly or ‘moche’? The same feeling of inferiority is communicated in the price. We read you sold the products at discounts of 30%. Wasn’t the whole point that a hideous orange is just as good as a perfect orange? Then why should we pay less? If we want to change the perception of consumers, shouldn’t we stop giving them the wrong cues?
“In addition, what we understood from the vegetable growers in our network is that selling products at such a discount often means that the farmer or grower sells his product at or below cost price. At the same time, the wonky veggies will compete with the growers’ - better priced - ‘perfect’ veggies, thereby making it even harder for them to make a living.”
Learn more at Kromkommer.

2. Robin Hood Army

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This organization in India rescues leftover food from restaurants and weddings, redistributing it to homeless families, night shelters, orphanages, and patients in public hospitals.

What started with 6 people in Delhi, serving 150 people in a night, has grown to 3,500 “Robins” (volunteers) who have served more than half a million hungry people since August 2014. The organization continues to grow as people realize the importance of this outreach work and want to fight against unnecessary food waste.
“On RHA’s first night of distribution, we realized that helping the less fortunate might feel good personally, but honestly feeding 50 odd people a night, once a week is not going to create any real difference in a country where millions are starving. For a problem this acute, we need to reach out to more people, more restaurants and more cities - the deadline being yesterday.”
The group does not collect any monetary donations, but simply asks for your time. Local chapters have even been opened across the border in Pakistan, and one ambitious project on Independence Day brought together Indian and Pakistani students to serve 100,000 hungry people. During Ramadan this year, the first-ever chapter was also established in Bangladesh.

You can join by volunteering your time, or if you own a restaurant, getting in touch for the redistribution of excess food. Colleges and universities are encouraged to create their own chapters. Visit website.

3. Rescuing Leftover Cuisine (RLC)

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Founded by a group of young Americans, many of whom are the children of immigrants and have experienced food insecurity themselves, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine has a methodical and successful approach to tackling hunger and food waste in three main steps.
“First, we localize the issues into sets of communities that can help sustain themselves. We crowd-source the solution of the transportation to the members of the public in these communities as volunteers. After identifying the homeless shelters of a needy community, we proactively find restaurants, hotels, and catering companies with excess food in that vicinity that could help support these disadvantaged communities.
“Second, we leverage technology to facilitate the identification and handling of excess food. Thus, partner food providers report when excess food is occurring and a web application is used to engage community members, because volunteering with us can be as easy as taking a brisk walk.
“Third, we tackle food waste at its root, aiming to eliminate as much food waste as possible and bringing the remaining excess food to where it is needed most. The data of when food waste occurs is used in our analysis of what types of food waste could be avoided, and RLC suggests ways that partner food providers can reduce waste at its root.”
RLC has its headquarters in New York City, but has grown to include chapters in 12 cities throughout the United States, as far away as San Francisco, Oakland, Portland and Miami.

If you’re interested in volunteering, the nightly distribution events take only 30 minutes on average, rescuing approximately 50 lbs of food to feed 40 people. You can sign up online. Donations of money or food are also accepted.

4. Plan Zheroes

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In 2011, Plan Zheroes was elected as one of 15 projects that would make London a more sustainable city. Indeed, the project continues to do so, growing and expanding its network every year. Plan Zheroes (whose name come from "zero food waste hero") runs similarly to many other food rescue and distribution networks, linking businesses with surplus food to people and charities that can put it to good use.

Plan Zheroes features an interactive online map that enables participants to see which nearby businesses will have certain kinds of foods available at specific hours. These could be bakeries, cafés, restaurants, or caterers. Charities, which are community centers, shelters, faith groups, or other registered entities able to accept donations, receive notification and drivers get involved to deliver the food on time. The people who benefit are low-income families, refugees, and the homeless, among others.

The project encourages people to get involved in a number of ways - as a business or charity, as a collector or driver, as a financial donor, or even by spreading the word on social media. There are even some current job postings.

Learn more online and find out how to get involved.

5. Copia

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This California-based group uses technology to streamline the donation of food and its distribution to shelters, churches, and other nonprofits in need.

Copia works a bit differently from other collection groups because it charges businesses for collection (min. US$20 per pickup), but it offers tax-deductible receipts in the estimated value of the food collected as an incentive. For businesses concerned about environmental impact, it’s a worthwhile investment - especially if it reduces disposal costs.
“Throwing away food benefits no one. Not only could the food have gone to someone in need, but the resource cost is tremendous: one-fifth of greenhouse gases come from meat production, and it takes over ten gallons of water to produce a single slice of bread. Our platform simplifies the process of food recovery, so Donors can make social, environmental and financial change in their choice to donate food to those in need.”
So far Copia has recovered 600,000 pounds of food in the Bay Area, redistributed to 720,000 people, and saved businesses US$3.6 million since its foundation in 2011. Get involved here.

6. Food Cloud

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Based in Dublin, Ireland, Food Cloud helps businesses redistribute their surplus food to people who need it. It provides a quick, easy technological solution to the problem of food waste. An online platform allows businesses to upload photos and descriptions of food that is close to its best-before date, that’s in slightly damaged packaging, or cannot be sold the next day, along with a time period during which the food can be collected. A text message is sent to nearby charities that can come pick it up.

Most of the businesses currently registered are supermarkets, as well as a few bakeries and cafés. The charities “provide support to many individuals within the community, including children and youth at risk of food poverty, single parents, the elderly, those who are homeless, those who are going through drug and alcohol rehabilitation, those who are unemployed, women who are escaping domestic violence; and families with low incomes who need help to get by.”

Food Cloud is always looking for volunteer drivers to deliver food to charities. You can apply online.

7. From Waste To Taste

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Based in Finland, From Waste to Taste is a ‘circular economy project’ with a number of noble goals underway - to redistribute surplus food, to create a food recycling center, and to open a restaurant that uses surplus food for its main ingredients. According to The Guardian, the group reallocates 90 percent of food (most of which is collected from Helsinki supermarkets) to food banks, with 10 percent being used by chef Mikko Tiainen.

A letter on the website, however, calls for applications for an official ‘From Waste To Taste’ restaurant, slated to open in summer 2016. The group is looking for a restaurant manager (English-speaking allowed) to run this innovative project. Although the restaurant is still in its infancy, it has received positive online reviews from diners who appreciate the innovative idea and important topic being addressed.

Top image: Food waste. Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

[Source: Treehugger. Edited. Top image added.]

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