We can be extremely grateful for many things that modern life has granted us – but one thing is for sure in the Western world, sharing isn’t something that have excelled in as the years have gone by.
We are hungry, greedy consumers – with a craving for an abundance of material and monetary wealth. We want to be bigger and better – especially when compared to our neighbours.
Of course it used to be so different. Mankind was a collection of many communities, spread across the globe. We lived, survived and thrived by working together for the betterment of everyone. Whatever was hunted and gathered was shared equally. Nothing was done to excess. People only took what was really needed and nothing more. If there was a problem, they worked together to solve it.
Plus nothing was hidden by huge factories. Everyone knew exactly how their clothes were made, and the journey that brought the food to their plate. Now it is largely hidden, where the exploitation and wasteful manufacturing can be ignored. We can feign ignorance.
There are very few of examples of true communities in practise today – and the planet is suffering as a result. Most people think only of themselves and their families – and the expectation is to have great choice, great quality and instant gratification. But it is slowly dawning on us that things need to change, as the resources we depend on for survival are starting to dwindle.
According to the WWF, around 1.1 billion people across the globe have zero or limited access to fresh safe water. Plus we are destroying the ocean’s biodiversity by over-fishing and harvesting edibles from the ocean on a large scale. Our need to create more, travel faster, build bigger and conquer more of the natural world, has brought about climate change on a bigger and more erratic scale than it normally would occur.
Food is an integral part of our lives. Many life events and rituals, including births, deaths, weddings, plus parties and even work functions often include or revolve around a meal. Sharing a meal is often more than a pitstop to refuel – it can be a sign of respect or acceptance of a person into a group. I can’t think of a more fitting and simple way to reunite people within a community other than food sharing! Can you?
So what exactly is Food Sharing? Why is it important? What are the draw backs? And most importantly, how can you get involved?
Let’s take a look at the details.
What is Food Sharing?
Food Sharing is a practice where individuals or groups of people make a commitment to ensure that food is shared instead of wasted. On a more fundamental level, it aims to stop people from going hungry, while their neighbours are tossing food into the trash.
It can be simple act of giving those in need – the excess food from your fridge or pantry, that would otherwise be going into the bin. In more organised sharing communities, shared items may also be exchanged for other items you may require.
A great example of an online community is found in Germany, where the members advertise there “spare” goods and exchange them for something another member might have, sort of like a barter system.
Food Sharing is a predominately “no monies exchanged” practice!
While there have been schemes such as soup kitchens and other assistance to the poor, food sharing aims to go so much further. It is not only designed to cater for the poor but is intended to bring the community together – and that includes animals.
Examples of Food Sharing
There are plenty of examples of Food Sharing all over the world, a quick google will bring up Facebook pages, Apps and more – you may feel like you have been out of the loop!
A community garden is a great foundation that many use. An area is chosen that is easily reached and monitored, detached backyards or allotments work well. Generally a designated group runs the garden, with a few additional members of the surrounding community.
The initial planting usually occurs as a charity drive, after fundraising to purchase tools, plants and seeds. Once the planting is done, the garden then becomes a supervised community project, whereby members of the community can make use of the garden, as long as they contribute and maintain the garden throughout the year.
This also provides great opportunities to teach the next generation, with schools getting involved to teach children about growing food and the importance of food supply.
Another variation of food sharing are cooking groups. Here, each member takes a turn to cook a meal, which is shared between group members and their families. This is usually done on a small scale, for instance people living on the same street, block, or within a complex.
Waste and Expired Sell-by Dates
Many shelters, including those for animals, encourage people and food stores to drop off unwanted food items. It sounds like a no brainer, but actually many supermarkets dump their produce when it crosses the elusive ‘sell-by date’.
Online groups for food sharing have popped up all over the world, making it easier for everyone to participate in this global initiative to ensure no one should go hungry. Whether a person wants to donate or exchange one food item for another, the web has helped open doors to decrease starvation, as well as wastefulness.
Why is Food Sharing Important?
Forgive the obvious question, but as the majority of us don’t participate in these kind of schemes, I wanted to make it clear.
Most of us are aware the plight of the planetary ecosystems. We know how important, yet fragile they are. Biodiversity is crucial, but man carelessly/lazily/thoughtlessly hunts certain species to near extinction.
Food sharing is a great way of putting to use what we already have, instead of putting pressure on our already heavily abused food sources – and scandalously wasting what we buy.
It makes complete sense to feed the homeless, poor, sick and needy – humans and animals alike. If fewer people found themselves desperate to feed their families would this even curb petty crime?
Food Sharing also enables the community to become familiar with all cultures within it. Imagine if each cultural or religious group hosted a traditional meal in a setting depicting their culture or religion.
Meals could be shared at a restaurant, home, hall, on communal grounds or any place jointly selected by the group. What a neutral and educational way for people to learn about and appreciate other cultures and religions.
Food Sharing is also an excellent way to show the world how to get things done without making it about money! Involving children in the programme can instil good values into our next generation – we sorely need that!
The life skills would include: saving, sharing, reusing, preserving, actions and reactions, planning for the future whilst living in the now, they are also shown that being kind and helping those in need doesn’t take away from what you have!
How Can You Get Involved In Food Sharing?
A great place to start is online – have a look at the initiatives that are already in your area and see if you can get involved.
If you find nothing then don’t give up! You can get a movement started yourself. Look to your neighbours, schools, places of safety, and so on. Start small and simple.
- Find a place to donate your unwanted or unused food items – a homeless shelter, orphanage, old age home perhaps.
- Why not start a Food Sharing group page for your area.
- Initiate community gardens.
- Create a food banks where people can drop off excess food items, making it safer and more easily accessible to the community.
- Hold talks, for example, at schools to teach our children the benefits of Food Sharing.
- Find ways of encouraging your family and friend to join you.
- Make use of your work place, church or residential area.
- Consider encouraging people contribute a set amount of money to buy food in bulk to be distributed equally amongst the members.
- Volunteer at food banks, soup kitchens or food distributing centres.
- Organise excursions for school children and adults, so that they can see the benefits of Food Sharing.
- Speak to grocery stores, bakeries and fruit & vegetable stores, to donate their surplus and unsellable stock towards the Food Share drive.
- Encourage cultural or religious meal hosting activities.
- At the very least, reuse your leftovers and make compost.
- Do not throw food away – make a commitment to yourself now!
There are so many different ways we can make Food Sharing a standard practice within our communities.
Legal and Charitable Support For Food Sharing
During hours of research for this topic, I was amazed by the variety of ways Food Sharing is encouraged in the US, as well as around the world. I am including a few that really made my heart swell with Stars and Stripes pride!
The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act
This act encourages the donation of perishables to registered non profit organisations. It offers incentive to companies and restaurants by providing them with liability protection in case any damage or illness is directly linked to the items they donated.
Internal Revenue Code 170(e)(3)
This code provides higher tax deductions to companies that donate edible items to programmes aimed at the poor and needy.
Campus Kitchens Project
This project runs on University campuses around the US, and encourages students to create solutions to curb or end starvation.
Community Harvest of Stark County
This mission was started in the 80s and its main aim is to collect all excess foods, cooked or raw, from companies in the food service industry. Every thing collected is dispersed to the needy.
There are virtually thousands of such laws and programmes in place today, that are pro Food Sharing.
What Are The Drawbacks?
Food Sharing is a wonderful concept and brings about a myriad of positive effects, both short and long term. Unfortunately, there are some draw backs, restrictions and laws surrounding the topic too.
Community gardens, whilst a good idea often are plagued by problems. Some folks will take advantage of the free resources, leaving little or nothing for others to use. Those in charge of upkeep of the garden, can lose interest and the garden sometimes dies off. Donations from members of the community tends to wane eventually, leaving only a few people to carry the financial burden. In some cases money is expected for the fruit and veg from the garden, which muddies the original goal.
Food Sharing to the homeless is being stopped or heavily restricted in many States through the US. This is mainly because it is seen to encourage vagrants as well unemployment. Some States have even issued fines to those handing food to the needy.
The donation of food items from manufactures, stores, restaurants, as well as farms is tricky in terms of liability. The fear of being sued for causing illness and damaging brand reputation stops many companies from donating perishables.
This coupled with the amount of effort and cost involved in distributing the surplus, means that goods are usually dumped instead.
In my opinion, a drive to increase human kindness and sharing is extremely valuable. These are attributes that are sorely lacking in many parts the the world. Giving people the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’, stop wasting and work together to reduce hunger has to be a positive move.
I hope that you are left feeling encouraged to start Food Sharing as soon as you can. Make a simple exchange, donate your left overs, cook for the elderly couple next door, volunteer your time or open your garden to the neighbourhood. Every morsel counts!