In this essay, I try to introduce the conception of food-sharing activity from perspectives of different scholars and organizations, its particular practice, its values and aims also represent our food-sharing research project conducted in Rub campus. Along with the same context, I will present scholars’ explanation on the bigger conception of on-going social phenomena, the emergence of modern “sharing economy” which characterizes itself as modern P2P market with the support of high technology and digital networking in modern society comparing to the old goods trads in ancient years.
After reviewing scholars’ current study and general reputation on food-sharing actives, the main body of essay describes details on modeling the research project and shaping the goal of research, this research on food-sharing activities was hold by a team of 5 members in the seminar of “social movement and prefigurative politics” in Ruhr University of Bochum, we focused on awareness of food-sharing conception in campus, its on-going practical experiences and various feedbacks from students of activist, non-activist and volunteers who
work for organization. In the end, I would give the brief conclusion for the research program we conducted and my personal feedback and findings through the experience.
1.What Is Food-Sharing? “Food-Sharing Ecosystem”?
Food sharing idea was born in Germany, it is about redistribution of given food surplus for the needy and socially disadvantaged layer of society. 1 The biggest website platform of food-sharing and food bank in Germany is Die Tafel, according to Die Tafel official speech, their definition on general food-sharing is about bridging the gap between excess on the one hand and lack on the other, to benefit socially and economically disadvantaged people.2 This biggest food-sharing organization is volunteer based and its rent, transport and administrative cost covered by private donations and business communities rather than public financing. They introduced the“Trinity of benefits” in the Tafel program: grocers, donators and producers take social responsibility, people in need receive high quality groceries, environment is prevented from pollution and valuable resources are free from wasting.
One of the founders in this food-sharing campaign in Germany is Valentin Thurn, as co-founder of the international federation of environmental journalists, his documentary “Taste the Waste” in 2010 stressed how much significant amount of food from its transportation till its arrival to table of household has been wasted and end up in landfill. At one interview in 2015 after the launching of his documentary he pointed that food wasting is not a simple problem rather can extend itself to human security and the humanity question is so complex to give a single answer to address. There is no big perfect solution, but rather a lot of small solutions, high-techs in our food production and distribution in current market system has completely missed the food-wasting issues and the large scale of people who are in hunger. He also exposed the normative problem in production and goods merchandising in food chain industries, no groups want to take responsibility to do alternative solutions because they get no better profit from them and unfortunately, famers are too weak to protest against them.3
From different dimension to review the current food-sharing activities, some find the current food-sharing boom is innovated into different form of social movement, so called “food-sharing ecosystem” . Anna R. Davies and Ferne Edwards explain that the food-sharing is already experiencing a renaissance by the support of digital communication technology which built giant food-sharing community and networks, the activity has been extended not only re-distribution of food surplus to people who in need but made another community and social network where people also sharing the cooking and restoring skills, food self-growing skills, food safety and even some life style changing campaigns and ideas. They called food-sharing as an “food-sharing ecosystem” where not only food-sharing itself present but also more extended and broad conception of sharing economy emerging. But on the other hand, they critiqued the existing shortages in the current law implementation, unlike the fast speed of formation of food-sharing technology and network, the council placing unreasonable requirements on small-scale and distributed business model. 4
Come to the larger context, Juliet Schor, a professor of sociology at Boston College, explained not only food-sharing campaigns but also the whole new booming conception and practices of sharing-economy that we are experiencing now has various merits. She claims three reasons of currently booming conception of sharing-economy in her essay in 2014 that people tend to motivated to publicly sharing their private properties derived from economic, environmental and social factors. From her perspectives, sharing economy introducing new emergence of P2P market environment against to traditional market conception where several layers of “middle man” exist, therefore, the both sides of participants in the business transition, the buyers and sellers, get economic benefits and online platform made the wider space for networking with geographically unknown-people more and more comparing to the past traditional sharing community when the trad was limited within neighborhood or work places. Sharing economy also advertises itself as green social movement by reducing additional carbon footprint and protect large amount of resources from being wasted or disposed without effectively used. 5
2. Modeling and Running of Research Project
The idea of research topic food-sharing was inspired by the Australian food-sharing activities in Melbourne. This sustainable food movement has its long history and been interviewed multiple times form different mass communication. We modeled particularly the idea and form of organization “Open table” among various currently running organizations with
different methods of distribution, aim and targets. The non-profit organization “Open table”
is based on two key ideas according to 3-month long qualitative interview held by Ferne Edward in 2017: reducing food waste and meeting the neighbors. The organization receives donated food from rescue agency and local stores that would otherwise be wasted and redistribute, reduces the ineffectively produced and wasted food by redistributing back to neighbors to make more sustainable local community. 6
From its original inspiration, we try to model our research program and we found the Rub campus already has similar program run by student organization of AStA. So, we site our research place as campus and set our aim of research as followings: Research on the general awareness of food-sharing within Rub campus, practical experiences of food-sharing activity in the campus and participation of students in the activity, the feedbacks from the food activists and volunteers. The interview was conducted at the day of food-sharing activity, and from the interview with AStA who is supervising the activity, we were able to accumulate more specific information about corporation between campus and local organizations and general issues regarding to food-sharing activities in Rub.
The food-sharing program which currently run by AStA in Rub campus is aiming: “make
Less food-wasting” according to its official website. The food-sharing program was enforced
from July 2017, it has been just more than a year available for the students in Rub. The program was cooperated with organization Food-sharing Bochum, who responsible for filling up the food twice a week regularly. The information about this program is available in official campus website and Facebook community of Rub.7
The food-sharing Bochum consist food-sharing institution which was created in 2012 in Berlin, it has since grown into an international movement with over 200,000 registered users in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and other European countries. All of them remains as free, non-commercial, independent and ad-free organization. By using their explanation, the organization sees the food-sharing activity as a movement of educational polity and engaged to sustainable environmental and consuming goal.8 From its official Facebook platform, it says the Food-Sharing gives individual, traders and producers opportunities to offer or pick up excess food for free, the basic idea behind is “People share food”, and it believes the sharing has an its ethical dimension to build in modern society.9
During our research project, we found all students we’ve interviewed agreed on the conception of food-sharing and already knew some cases in Germany or in different countries even, but most of them did not realize the on-going food-sharing activity conducted by AStA, since it is not easily to reach to information of campus food-sharing activity to participant in we have found. Some suggested that the campus should make it much easier to reach to the information of the food-sharing activities and let more students know about the activity because every year the campus have new-in students who haven’t got information about such activities. The students who already well-know about this campus activity, they have known about it from friends or online community, some of them participant the activity since they live close enough to join regularly, some said they rather just stop by when they have enough time to do so. We have found most of them who participant the food-sharing for taking the food rather sharing their food, the officer of student council who in charge of campus food-sharing program responded, it is not necessary let people to share their food to get food from others, the point is we make it possible to consume the food which is otherwise to be wasted, and it is also written on AStA official website page about the information of food-sharing activity in Rub. Why do volunteers work for it? During the interviews with two volunteers who work for Food-sharing Bochum and supervise the food-sharing in Rub together with AStA answered that they do this voluntary job all because of huge amount of unconscious food-wasting in our society, by doing so, they said they try to show that the food which about to dispose are still eatable.
It was quite impressive to see that how the students in Rub react to current food-sharing activity in Rub and how well do they aware the general ideas and practices of food-sharing, we get very positive feedbacks from students about the idea of food-sharing and its spreading in campus. But on the other hands, we imagine that one would question about the food safety issue or in extended context, about the legal issues behind: whether the food served for free are undoubtedly safe to eat? According to official websites of Food-sharing organization, current food-sharing activities conducting in European counties are all non-expired food from supermarket or particular organization or corporation, and for more strict food safety, volunteers who work for organization also examine all donated food before they distribute to local communities. But in fact, this issue is debated aggressively in U.S., according to the national Coalition for the homeless in U.S. more than 70 cities have passed or attempted to pass the law of citywide restrictions on food sharing, and in particular cities, people feeding the homeless considered as criminal offenses. The legislation restricts the food-sharing on the ground of food safety, requiring organizations sharing food top comply with overly strict food-safety regulations, such as only preparing food in approved locations or serving only pre-packaged meals.10
To conclude the research project, after reviewed the current study on food-sharing conception from different scholars and communities and its practices in real examples, I would pose the importance in underlining the rhetoric difference and relation between food-wasting and food-sharing. Put it differently, whether food-sharing provides effective solution to address the food-wasting is not determined regardless of other alternatives and actual causal relations of other factors related with food-wasting are also not fully covered so far. By reviewing the scholars and investigators, we are able to know about the insufficient methodological and systemic ideas exist in food distribution as well as political and economic issues in current food producing and merchandising processes we had in modern society. Nevertheless, the core idea behind the food-sharing is rather reflect ethical dimension regarding to value of food, value of livestock and human resources that we’ve been ignored over the fast industrial revolution and innovations in technology and current market system. Our research project, as we have talked in intro, does not aim in spreading the idea of food-sharing or persuade readers to be activist in food-sharing after read this article. Our initial goal lies in research on awareness of conception and idea of such movement and accumulated feedbacks from activist, non-activist and volunteers who work for food-sharing organization. We have conducted the qualitatively and quantitatively valid interviews in campus Rub and the main body of essay reveals from its modeling to findings to the end. Thank you for reading my article and your comments for it!
A contribution from Zhongzheng Zhang
References:(no in order of article)
1. Anna Uspenskaya. How foodsharing in Germany began. Article from website Foodsharing.ru. 28.March, 2018
2. Anna R. Davies, Ferne Edwards. Food sharing with a 21st-century twist and Melbourne’s a world leader. The Conversation: Academic rigour, journalistic fair. 29. May, 2018
3. Juliet Schor. Debating the Sharing Economy. Great Transition initiative. October 2014
4. Ferne Edwards. Sharecity’s First Completed Field Site: Food Sharing in Melbourne, Australia.
http://sharecity.ie/sharecitys-first-completed-field-site-food-sharing-melbourne-australia. Feb, 2017.
5. National Coalition for the Homeless October 1, 2014 cit. in Dr. Mercola. Should food sharing be
illegal? July 26, 2016 https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/07/26/food-sharing.aspx
6. Referred an interview conducted by Johanna Schick. Interview mit Valentin Thurn: 10 Milliarden – wie warden wir alle satt? Greenality.de 16. April, 2015
7. Referred website of AStA RUB https://asta-bochum.de/projekte/foodsharing/
8. Referred website Tafe http://Tafel.de
9. Referred to website of Food-Sharing organization https://foodsharing.de/
10. Referred to official account of Facebook Food-Sharing https://www.facebook.com/foodsharingbo/
1 Anna Uspenskaya. How foodsharing in Germany began. Article from website Foodsharing.ru. 28.March, 2018
2 Referred website Tafel http://Tafel.de
3 Referred an interview conducted by Johanna Schick. Interview mit Valentin Thurn: 10 Milliarden – wie warden wir alle satt? Greenality.de 16. April, 2015
4 Anna R. Davies, Ferne Edwards. Food sharing with a 21st-century twist and Melbourne’s a world leader. Theconversation.com (article from The Conversation: Academic rigour, journalistic fair Website). 29. May, 2018
5 Juliet Schor. Debating the Sharing Economy. Essay from https://www.greattransition.org/publication/debating-the-sharing-economy#why-share. October 2014
6 Ferne Edwards. Sharecity’s First Completed Field Site: Food Sharing In Melbourne, Australia. http://sharecity.ie/sharecitys-first-completed-field-site-food-sharing-melbourne-australia Feb, 2017.
7 Referred website AStA RUB https://asta-bochum.de/projekte/foodsharing/
8 Referred to website of Food-Sharing organization https://foodsharing.de/
9 Referred to official account of Facebook Food-Sharing https://www.facebook.com/foodsharingbo/
10 Referred to National Coalition for the Homeless October 1, 2014 cit. in Dr. Mercola. Should food sharing be illegal? July 26, 2016 https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/07/26/food-sharing.aspx