‘The advantage is that you give people the opportunity to value their value, that they can make their own choice’
HOUTEN – Food banks in the Netherlands are asking for extra attention in week 42 for people living below the poverty line and dependent on packed lunches. Paul van Berkel, responsible for food purchasing on the board of VBN, tells Fødevareavisen how they get hold of all the products that are made available. “We simply use the food that would otherwise be wasted. We have worked for years with all producers who are willing to donate in the broadest sense of the word. ”
What are the thoughts behind Food Banks Week?
“World Poverty Day and World Food Day also take place during Food Banks Week. These themes recur in our organization, which is why we have chosen to draw attention to the problems we devise solutions for. We currently help around 40,000 households, but by no means all the people who need it. We do not reach many people because they do not know the food bank or are ashamed. To qualify, we look at net consumption income, so assets are omitted from it. We always work with other parties to ensure that customers, as we call them, are no longer dependent on us after two to three years. Although we do not leave them hungry under a bridge after that time of course. So you always get a packed lunch with route. ”
Can you explain how food recruitment works?
“The products all come from manufacturers and supermarkets. We are simply using the food that would otherwise be wasted. Think of products with old packaging or which are best approaching the pre-date. It does not matter to all of us, we are very happy about it. We have been working for years with all the producers you can think of who are willing to donate in the broadest sense of the word. We also work with dealers. These are key agreements on the one hand, but also regional and even local agreements on the other. The amount of products we receive has decreased in recent years as a result of all kinds of anti-waste measures. It makes us more dependent on food donations. The waste agreement will only further strengthen this trend. Everyone is taking action against food waste, and that is obviously good for the planet, but a little less so for us. As a result, the amount of food offered decreases while we depend on it. Fortunately, we also receive donations, such as 140 tons of meat. We’re trying to save it all. A lot can get in the freezer, thankfully. During certain periods, you can then draw on the stocks that are available. On the other hand, we also sometimes have to decide that fresh items can no longer be given in a packed lunch because the shelf life does not allow it. We have agreements with the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration on the best-before date, because food safety is extremely important. We always stick to that. We deliver to people, and even if you are poor, you should not get sick from food. “
To what extent do the recipients have a choice, and do you take into account dietary needs?
“We are installing supermarket concepts in more and more places. It’s actually a store where you do not pay. Customers can pick up a certain number of items from the shelf themselves. The advantage is that you give people the opportunity to value themselves, that they can make their own choices and therefore can also take into account dietary needs. The other benefit is that you have less waste in the chain. By that I mean that people sometimes refuse or throw out products if they are in a package. Or that they get peanut butter while still having it at home. This concept requires more of volunteers because it needs to be properly demonstrated and monitored. In the corona period, we saw that the social moment in the food bank disappeared because people tried to spread as much as possible and organize as little contact between people as possible. As a result, exchanges no longer took place and tight periods awaited. Fortunately, we are slowly returning to the old situation. ”
What products do you often miss?
“We almost never get eggs, because there is always a sales channel for them. In addition, the shelf life is not long. It’s not dramatic, because we’re not there to give the weekly messages. We contribute to about 2 to 3 days of food. The most important thing is that we complete about two thirds of the package according to the Five Wheel, so that there are also healthy products enough. There have been times when we have been offered a large amount of unhealthy items but still have declined. Then it does not fit into the goals, or we have no supplements. ”
How do you handle profits or expired best before dates?
“When it comes to durability, there are different paths. In the food bank we have several shopping places: national, regional and local. We have no national stock. Everything goes directly to the regional distribution centers or the local food banks. In principle, we reject goods that no longer have sufficient durability to issue to customers. If we are not able to distribute the products within the durability, we often have a partnership with kitchens in the neighborhood or the children’s zoos that take over the products. We do not accept fruit and vegetables that are no longer good. ”