“Being able to come here means everything to me. I can always find something here that I am unable to buy for myself,” says Tonny.
Around us, the crowded store is bustling with activity. There is a constant hum from coolers and freezers filled with meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, sauces, soups and fresh vegetables. Here, you’ll find everything you need for a regular, nutritionally balanced diet.
Tonny is one of several people who every day show up to the Church City Mission food bank in Bodø. Pleased, he shows us a grocery bag filled with good, varied and nutritional food.
“It has to be varied. Today, I’ll have fish cakes for dinner,” he says.
The group of people using the service has grown steadily since the food bank opened in April, according to the Church City Mission project manager Ola Smeplass.
“Now, about 60-80 people stop by every day, in addition to the aid organisations. Usually, there’s a line outside when we open. The first hour the place is bustling,” says Smeplass.
“We see people of all ages enjoying the service, from children to the elderly, coming from a lot of different backgrounds and situations.”
He is joined by a staff of six regular volunteers. Every morning, they drive around to local businesses and collect hundreds of kilos of food. The food is surplus food that otherwise would have been thrown away due to the strict rules for best before-labelling. The local Coop and Bama departments are regular contributors.
Upon arriving at the food bank, the food is placed on shelves, in coolers and freezers. From here, it is redistributed to the Salvation Army and Red Cross, who use it in their work with disadvantaged groups. Individuals arriving at the food bank may fill up to one grocery bag each.
Come afternoon, there is still an even flow of people in the store. Some ask what the food contains, others wonder if they may take an extra portion of sauce. Several would like an extra bag of groceries but there are no exceptions to the rule.
“We need to be strict when enforcing the rule of only one grocery bag per person. We need some degree of control. Usually, this is not a problem,” says Ola Smeplass.
Recently, he and the volunteers have had a one-day workshop to discuss the development and expansion of the food bank. He speaks very highly of his staff.
“The do an amazing job! They are truly dedicated to the work, and that is very inspiring to see,” he says.
Ola Smeplass now hopes that Bodø municipality and more actors can get involved, and that similar projects will be established in all Norwegian cities where there’s a need.
“This project is a win-win venture in so many ways. It’s sustainable, it helps people in need, it’s run on a volunteer basis, and several of our volunteers get good work practice from it,” says Smeplass.
The food bank has also proved to have an unexpected additional, positive side effect:
“We have received so much feedback from employees in grocery stores who are thanking us because they no longer have to take part in throwing away large quanta of edible surplus food every day. Many people experience that wasting food in this way weighs on their conscience, even though it’s not their fault that the rules are the way they are,” Ole Smeplass explains.
“In this way, the food bank also contributes to a better work day for these people!”
- FACTS ABOUT FOOD WASTE AND THE FOOD BANKS
• Every year, 350,000 tonnes of food are thrown away in Norway
• The wasted food has an estimated collected value of almost NOK 20 billion
- • The world’s food production stands for about 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions
• The Kavli Trust supports the establishment and operation of food banks like the one in Bodø in several Norwegian cities.
Tonny comes to the food bank regularly, and Viktoria works here as a volunteer.