The pilot in Belgium and the UK
The case of Feedback
SavingFood’s pilot partner in the UK is Feedback, which is an environmental organisation that campaigns to end food waste at every level of the food system – by working with governments, international institutions, businesses, NGOs, grassroots organisations and the public to change society’s attitude toward wasting food.
Currently, Feedback operates five regional gleaning ‘hubs’ throughout England. It is their ambition to expand the gleaning network, opening more hubs in new locations, and to significantly increase the overall volumes of food captured through gleaning. A preliminary aim is to reduce the workload (and therefore the costs) associated with each gleaning hub – by decreasing the costs, we increase the potential to replicate and scale-up.
Under the existing systems and processes, the most time-consuming aspect of gleaning is the management and coordination of volunteers. Communication with volunteers takes place mainly via email, with some use of phone and/or social media. This can be slow and laborious for a number of reasons; it is also imperfect because email systems do not generally collate information (as per a database) and do not encourage peer-to-peer (volunteer-to-volunteer) communication or interaction.
The SavingFood platform has offered the potential to streamline the management and coordination of volunteers, and this has therefore been their main focus at all stages of implementation. Feedback has received valuable feedback throughout the project from both potential users and trial users, as well as partner organisations.
From the outset of the project, Feedback has focussed exclusively on farmers as potential donors within SavingFood. This is because the activity of gleaning always takes place on farms: it is concerned with rescuing fruits and vegetables that are left behind in the field, often because it is not profitable for the farmer to sell them or because they have been rejected by the intended customer (for example, owing to the cosmetic appearance of the produce).
However, while farmers are important donors to the SavingFood community, from the beginning of the project it was less certain if/how they would interact with the SavingFood platform. This is for a number of reasons, such as the need for an established trust between the involved parties, lack of time and the inability of farmers to adapt to new technologies. For those reasons farmers are not asked to interact directly with the Saving Food platform; instead they are be represented by the gleaning coordinators (Feedback employees) acting on their behalf.
Throughout the SavingFood project, Feedback continued to engage new farmers, and to develop relationships with existing farmer contacts. An important and successful factor of engagement was the organization of SavingFood events.
Main learnings and challenges
According to our pilot partner, Saving Food has been very useful in allowing to develop learnings, which we will incorporate into Feedback’s future activities. Feedback’s future plans include:
A utilization of the SavingFood platform to facilitate gleaning days. They will also explore the possibility of expanding gleaning to new regions throughout the UK, which Feedback hopes will be made more easy and cost-effective through the rollout of SavingFood. Additionally, we aim to trial the SavingFood platform to support urban harvesting activities – first in London, then, if successful, in other cities throughout the UK
They will continue to build the SavingFood community, especially through further development of our ambassadors programmes
The development of materials such as our Gleaning Handbook to incorporate learnings and feedback from this project, especially from the other pilot partners. They will then carry out dissemination activities to promote the handbook, so that is can be accessed and used (free of charge) by other organisations across Europe (and beyond) who wish to initiate or expand their own gleaning project.
The case of FoodWin
FoodWIN is the European Food Waste Innovation Network supporting European cities to reduce food waste. They are empowering urban food systems to reduce food waste through concrete actions.
FoodWin has built and supported a European network of food waste innovators that reduce food waste or use food surplus. Furthermore, they have supported various local governments to reduce food waste. This unique expertise enables them to offer holistic, comprehensive solutions to food waste in Europe.
They offer concrete tools to cities and elaborates inspiring solutions in line with local situations, via means of co-creation and inclusiveness. Through a multi-stakeholder’s approach, they devise impactful solutions to move faster towards a Zero Food Waste Europe. FoodWin has been partnering with a wide range of actors in the food supply chain and governmental authorities at local, regional and European level, while they are recognized by the European Commission as experts in the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste.
FoodWIN is a coordinator of the Gleaning Network Belgium. The Gleaning Network works together with volunteers, local farmers and the food banks to prevent food waste in the field.
Often farmers cannot harvest (part of) their crops because they do not meet the absurd cosmetic standards of the supermarkets or simply because there is a surplus on the market.
With the Gleaning Network, FoodWin saves these vegetables and fruits from a certain waste to serve them at the food banks. This is how we want to roll up our sleeves to prevent food waste.
Worldwide, 1 / 3rd of the produced food is simply thrown away. This happens on the field, during processing and transport, and in our own kitchens. Feedback and the Gleaning Network want to change that.
When they track down a farmer with a surplus, we announce the date and place of the gleaning here and they go out with as many volunteers as possible to harvest coal, spinach, tomatoes, apples, and other fruits and vegetables.
FoodWin intends to continue using the platform for their future gleaning and for coordination with their volunteers and ambassadors. The gleaning season is very slowly starting so opportunities to continue using the platform should come soon.
The SavingFood project helped them get organised and find gleaning ambassadors, in other words volunteers that are more invested in the project and willing to eradicate food waste on the field and organise gleanings. Those ambassadors are of great help for the gleaning network.