Bread and vegetables should not end up in the trash. This is what food sharing groups do. There are 32 locations in Rhineland-Palatinate, one of which operates in Mainz.
In the midday heat at the weekly market, you can watch heads of lettuce wither. For the Mainz group of the Foodsharing initiative, it is time to save food. Stall workers know them when they ask about 20 stalls: “Is there anything for us?”.
The initiative does not take anything away from Tafel
Christine Kaiser hands Karina and Paul a box of limes, kiwis and oranges. “It has to be organic, but also flawless,” says Gau-Algesheimer of the demands of many of her clients. Once the fruit has a spot, it becomes difficult to sell it. That’s why food sharing buyers are welcome: “I feel good when I can help and when things don’t end up in the trash.”
The main goal of the initiative is to preserve food and promote respect for it, says Dorothy Stauche, a co-eating ambassador in one of Mainz’s five districts. “When we approach supermarkets or businesses like a bakery, we first ask if they are also on the list for Tafel.” The principle is applied that nothing is taken from organizations for those in need. “We only take what the board doesn’t take with it.”
32 self-organized groups in RLP
The food exchange network has 32 locations with local groups throughout Rhineland-Palatinate. Each is organized independently, mostly through digital channels, where collection and distribution can also be negotiated at short notice. Food sharing in Mainz works in the same way as in Bern or Warsaw, Stauche explains. Everything is coordinated with the authorities, as well as the observance of hygienic standards when handling food products.
Sometimes more far-reaching projects develop from the idea of food sharing. The people of Mainz, for example, are planning a crowdfunding initiative for a food-sharing cafe in the fall, which, in addition to offering free, salvageable food, plans to organize an educational and cultural program.
“A ton of products every day”
“Foodsharing” works with 110 supermarkets, businesses and restaurants in Mainz, says the 31-year-old man. “Every day we collect a ton of food.” Since February, the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate officially supports food sharing. In this way, Mainz wants to make an active contribution to the fight against food waste, according to the joint resolution. Among the specific measures are negotiations with the market administration regarding the unification of the weekly and district markets.
At the weekly bazaar in the shadow of the cathedral, Karina and Paul are now at a stand where they’ve been told: “Anything in the boxes on the floor is up for grabs.” Paul checks which grapes have not yet rotted and hands them to Karina to pack. Kimberly, meanwhile, is pitying the lettuce. She removes the outer leaves, the lettuce is still very crunchy inside. You can also bring rhubarb and cauliflower here.
A step towards a circular economy?
Organic farmer Elke Korte from Dietz an der Lahn sees food sharing as part of the circular economy she strives for. “What food sharing doesn’t take away, we bring to the chickens on the farm or throw into the compost.” The most important thing is that the leftovers can be used somehow. However, if such a mentioned dietary change is to be successful, products will also have to be purchased. By itself, the food sharing approach is not large-scale and rather optional, says the farmer, dismantling the stall.
Finally, the group gathers near the eastern apse of the cathedral for distribution. Everyone has a home community, neighborhood group, or shared apartments that use preserved food. Kimberly moderates the distribution and thus also finds a buyer for a lonely, somewhat sad-looking artichoke. Most of the salad goes to Paul, who participates in the Brunch for All initiative in his neighborhood.
40 cases of beer were also saved
When a large quantity of food is collected, it is taken to one of the “fair sharers,” a regularly clean cupboard from which what is needed can be taken. Even then, the message will come through digital channels, Stauhé explains: “The fair is full. Come and save the fruit from the heat!” According to her estimates, the food exchange in Mainz reaches a total of about 5,000 people. “We had a big pickup the other day,” she says. “We saved 40 cases of beer. They went their separate ways pretty quickly.”