|Volunteers working for the Green Food Bank [Women of China]|
The Green Food Bank was established by Shanghai Oasis Public Philanthropy Development Center (SOPPDC) in 2014. It is the first food bank in China's mainland. The food bank collects and distributes food to underprivileged families. It helps disadvantaged people feel warm, and it encourages them to fight to escape poverty. The food bank also helps promote the concept of treasuring food, and it encourages people to eliminate environmental pollution and food waste.
Li Bing, a graduate of East China Normal University with a Ph.D. in ecology, established SOPPDC in Shanghai, in November 2004. It was the first officially registered, nongovernmental grass-roots environmental-protection organization in Shanghai. Green Food Bank, a program to alleviate food waste and distribute surplus food to disadvantaged families, was initiated by SOPPDC in 2014. The first operating center of the food bank was established in Pudong, a district in Shanghai, in May 2015. Now, there are two operating centers, and more than 50 food-distributing stations, in the city. SOPPDC has also cooperated with enterprises and organizations in other cities, including Beijing, Shenzhen and Chengdu, to distribute surplus food to needy people in those cities.
"Every year, nearly 32 billion dollars worth of food are wasted in China. There is nearly 1,200 tons of organic waste (most of which is food) in Shanghai every day, which pollutes the environment," Li says, when asked why she implemented the program.
"Meanwhile, there are 230,000 underprivileged families in Shanghai. The children and elderly people from those families are suffering from malnutrition. We hope to build a bridge between impoverished people and surplus food, which will assist the disadvantaged people in need, and also alleviate food waste and environmental-pollution problem. So, we launched the Green Food Bank program in Shanghai."
The world's first food bank was established in the United States in 1967. Since then, thousands of food banks have been established in cities all over the world. Most food banks around the world distribute food to social-service organizations that feed people. However, the food bank in Shanghai primarily distributes food and other necessities directly to needy people.
"Our food bank mainly serves these groups of needy people — families without breadwinners, disabled people who are unable to work and recipients of the subsistence security allowance given by the government. We give priority to juveniles' families that are short of money (as the breadwinners of these families have been unemployed, have had serious diseases or have passed away) and impoverished elderly people who need to raise their grandchildren under 18," says Shen Yan, an officer of the program.
Where to Get Food?
"We refer to the surplus food donated to the needy people as 'balanced food.' We believe the oversupplied food that is about to be thrown by the food producers and retailers is 'balanced food.' When we were preparing the program, we needed to mobilize and persuade the food producers and retailers to donate the surplus food. Now, we have more than 120 food donors, including farms, retailers and food manufacturers, such as Carrefour, Kellogg's, Mengniu Dairy Company and WO CHU, a fresh-food e-commerce platform," says Zhang Qiuxia, the program's director.
"We aim to help the families who are short of money because they have paid a lot for treatments for their family members' diseases. We distribute a food package that is worth 120 yuan (US $18) per month to impoverished families. More than 200 families have benefited from the food package," Zhang says. "The packages include rice, flour and cooking oil. We also distribute food packages according to recipients' needs. We offer nutritious-food packages, consisting of cakes, cookies, milk, oatmeal and/or sesame-seed paste-powder, to the elderly people who cannot cook meals themselves. We offer milk powder to infants' families, and we provide snacks and drinks to children's families. We conduct surveys, among recipients, twice a year, to better understand their requirements for food. So, we can renew the contents of the food packages in time."
The solidarity refrigerator project was launched by SOPPDC in October 2016. The first solidarity refrigerator was situated in the operating center of the food bank in Changshou, a residential community in Putuo, a district in Shanghai. The refrigerator stores yogurt, rice cakes, canned foods and other snacks donated by supermarkets and restaurants within 1.5 kilometers of the operating center. Recipients can pick up what they need from the refrigerator for free. The owners of some restaurants also in Shanghai.
To guarantee the quality of the "balanced food," SOPPDC's employees have selected the cooperative-enterprise donors in a careful way. The donors need to sign a contract, to guarantee what they donate is safe and fresh, and that the food will be stored in proper environment. Volunteers of the food bank have been trained to identify whether the food is fresh before they distribute it to the needy people.
Compared with the food banks in other countries, the operating centers of the food bank in Shanghai have some unique features. The operating centers and distribution stations are situated in residential communities, and the residents in the communities are enrolled as the volunteers of the food bank. The volunteers help promote the concept of the food bank and "balanced food." They also help pack and distribute the food. Most of the volunteers are elderly people in the communities, students from nearby schools, parents and their children and white-collared workers.
"Our program helps optimize the allocation of food resources. We mobilize volunteers to distribute 'balanced food' to disadvantaged people directly. We also hope to promote the concept of treasuring and sharing food to more people," says Zhang.