Tuesday, 21 July 2015

How to ask a shop if they want to donate their food/waste

A meal created from rescued foods

Before you go into a shop and ask for the manager, it would help if you have some network of people you can donate to, or at least a plan of what to do with all that food, because if they say yes, you will end up with a lot of food. And this is food that you need to get rid of quickly, as it is already expired. So it usually needs to be sorted out immediately and then stored in a suitable place (cool and dry, fridge or freezer). So you need a lot of space, because if the food that is meant to stay in the fridge is not picked up within an hour after coming out of the fridge, then that makes it less safe. Obviously it also doesn’t help that it is usually expired, but keep in mind that you store the food as best you can. After all, we want to save as much of it as possible! And always tell the people you donate to what happened to the food, especially if it has been outside the fridge for a while. Also make sure to tell them to check the food before consumption (look, smell, taste...)!

When I place an ad offering free food, I usually include the following text (or something like it):
“Free food, which has to be picked up today. Some of it is expired, so please consume at your own risk and check the food thoroughly before consumption.”

If you want to be sure, it might be good to check the legalities of donating food beforehand.

Also, it might help to prepare a letter that you can hand in, in case they have no time to talk to you, which includes the benefits of their participation and other important information. Below is the letter I wrote and still use. It says 'Folkekjøkken', because that is the name of the charity that got me started on this path (although now I run my own subcharity and only donate food to families in need):

Folkekjøkken Trondheim

What is it?

Folkekjøkken is a national non-profit organization, consisting of volunteers who collect rejected foods (food waste) to cook for the community and to donate food to underprivileged families. At our kitchen, everybody can join in and eat with us for free. We try to cook several times a week. Our main kitchen is based on Strandveien 23 in Svartlamon. The rest of the food that we pick up is donated to people in need.

Benefits to you:

-       We collect and sort your waste for free

-       We sort out the food and separate usable from non-usable products and can throw non-usables in the container for you

-       No extra resources are needed: just leave wasted products in a separate trolley for us to collect and sort out

-       It will save your employees time to let us sort and collect the waste

-       You can choose to remain anonymous as a participating supermarket, or we can spread the word, so that you get positive publicity  

Also, by contributing to our cause, you:

-       Help people who are going through a challenging time in their lives

-       Help save the environment, by minimizing food waste, which reduces carbon emissions and thus helps combat climate change.

-       Practice responsible waste management

How can you help?
We collect food and non-food products that are about to be thrown away by supermarkets. Everything is welcome and we will try to recycle as much as possible. For example: bread and baked goods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat, fish, dairy products, pizzas, pastas, sauces, sweets/desserts, but also cooking utensils, appliances, toilet paper, etc. Basically, anything that gets thrown away, we can use.

We will take full responsibility for the safety of the food and inform everyone that consumption is at their own risk. We will check all the food thoroughly before we cook and if there is any doubt about safety, we will throw it away. Safety is our first priority along with serving the community, and the second is minimizing waste.

The procedure 
It would be great if refrigerated items can stay refrigerated until we pick it up. The food does not have to be sorted. We can sort through the items/products and select what is still usable and what is not. So everything can be put in a trolley and we will pick it up and separate the good from the bad.

I can collect the food at a set time each day, or you can call me when you have food available for pickup. 

Thank you for reading this information!

If you have any questions, you can contact Liselotte Roosen (PhD Candidate Environmental Psychology at NTNU): Mobile: 93606823


So here is what you can do in the shop:

1.       Ask for the manager, or check with staff beforehand what would be a good time to talk to the manager (or get an appointment). If you know someone who works at the store, you could even ask them to check with the manager if they would be interested.
2.       Explain who you are and what you do: Tell the manager you manage a charity and that you donate food that would otherwise be wasted, to people in need. Explain that it would not lose them any business because these are people who cannot afford quality foods. Also, emphasize that they can stay anonymous if they prefer (which means you’d have to be willing to remove all store labels, if this applies).
3.       Tell them a bit about how it works. The store can keep all food waste in a designated box or trolley (preferably in a cool room with fridge-temperatures) for you to pick up at set times each day, or they can call you whenever they are cleaning out the store. 
4.       Ask them if they would be willing to contribute to your charity and if so, how they would like to proceed: What time can you come over? Do you call them in advance? Is a certain person going to be in charge? You can also do a trial period to see if the store feels okay with the new arrangements. Make sure your request doesn't sound like a demand! People don't like to be told what to do. **(Practice Nonviolent Communication)
5.       (Most important of all) Show up every day! Or at least according to agreement. Too many volunteers that I have seen ruin a good working relationship by not showing up, or only picking up half the stuff. This is not a good idea. Remember that the shop is going through extra trouble just so that you can pick up their food. They store their waste in a room that is probably meant for storage of new deliveries; it is in the way; they have to be more careful with the food and be more conscious of storing it correctly... So if you can’t make it one day, make sure to let them know well in advance or schedule a replacement person who can pick up for you. I believe an important reason why some stores are unwilling to donate is because of negative previous experiences with charities or volunteers.
6.       Make sure to let them know how they are enriching people's lives! For example, bring them notes of the people who have received the foods. You will probably get messages with stories of gratitude from people who tell you about how they have some sense of security now that they can pick up food from you, or how they can sleep at night because they have less to worry about, and so on. Alternatively, you can take photos of the beautiful meals you make to feed hungry people, or of the people enjoying the food. It feels great to share this with the store manager and their staff, because they made all that possible in the first place! They may even put the text or photos in their lunchroom or storage area, as a reminder of what it is all about!

Regarding number 3, I have found it works best if you just agree to come by every day to see if they have anything for you. You may have to be persistent in the beginning. But always be polite and tell them it is no trouble for you to come by and check; even if they don't have anything. And eventually they will trust that you will be there every day and then they will start saving food for you.

Good luck! :)

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