Food Bank: Most of the surplus food in Estonia goes to waste

A Toidupank van.
A Toidupank van. Source: ERR

September 29, the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, will be celebrated by a video conference where the Estonian Food Bank (Toidupank), the Ministry of Social Affairs and many international experts will address the issue of food waste and redistribution.

According to surveys conducted by the Ministry of Social Affairs, households generate the most food waste in Estonia. In 2015, an average of 54 kg of food waste was generated per person, of which 36 percent consisted of wasted food.

Last year, Toidupank redistributed 1.9 million kg of food, of which 1.4 million was "rescued" food, i.e. foodstuffs which would have gone to waste.

to Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center), says that since 2015, Toidupank has proved itself a worthy partner for the ministry in purchasing food, with the help of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, and distributing it to those in need. From October 2019, the Food Bank will also distribute donated food received from the same fund's resources.

"We are pleased that Toidupank has been putting its heart and energy together with hundreds of volunteers for more than 10 years, to support people in need," Kiik said via a press release on Thursday.

The minister added: "This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of Toidupank customers has increased by a third every week, which also demonstrates that the number of people in need may continue to rise in the coming months."

The Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Rural Affairs, and the Ministry of Finance are drawing up an action plan to reduce food waste and to promote donation, which will be completed by the end of 2020. More than 40 partners have been involved in drafting the plan.

While the redistribution of surplus food is a growing trend, and food producers and retailers are willing to donate the surplus to charities, the amount of food redistributed still only forms a small part of the total edible food surplus, the partners say, meaning the aime must be to ensure that food does not transform into waste and can be redistributed to those in need before it expires.

Piet Boerefijn, head of Toidupank, said: "In the coming years, it is necessary to create an efficient system in Estonia that will help save the surplus safe and high-quality food. This requires cooperation with producers, retail chains, and catering establishments, as well as with each of us.

"In addition, the public and private sectors need to think about how to deliver this food quickly to the people in need which also requires very good coordination with local authorities, charities, schools, family physicians and food growers, producers, and retail chains," Boerefijn noted.

Toidupank was created in 2010, and since then has grown into a nation-wide network, consisting of 15 different food banks, mainly staffed by volunteers.

The food bank's mission is to help people in need in their respective regions by organizing contracts with food producers, importers, supermarkets and the EU's food assistance program.

More info on Toidupank, including how to be a volunteer for the organization and how to donate food, can be read on the Food Bank's webpage (in Estonian).

ERR News caught up with Boerefijn, the initative's founder in Estonia, last year, after the Estonian Food Bank's tenth anniversary. Read the feature here.

Video conference to be held on September 29

To draw attention to the importance of preventing food waste, an international conference "Food, no Waste!" will be held on September 29, from 11:00 to 16:00 organized by the Estonian Food Bank, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Ministry of the Environment.

The conference will focus on the prevention of food waste from the perspective of food redistribution and can be viewed as a video broadcast via news portal Delfi.

The "Food, not Waste!" conference will be opened by Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik, Minister of Rural Affairs Arvo Aller (EKRE), President of the European Food Banks Federation Jacques Vandenschrik, and European Commissioner Stella Kyriakides. Experts and practitioners from Estonia (Tallinn Waste Recycling Center), Great Britain (Tesco PLC), the Netherlands (Wageningen University and Science), and France (Agricultural Counselor of the French Embassy) will share their experiences as well.

Representatives of the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Tallinn Center of the Stockholm Environmental Institute will talk about the state's policy in this field and the statistics on food waste generation.

The snacks offered at the conference are themselves to be made from food saved from Rimi Estonia stores.

More details on "Food, not Waste!" are available on the event's webpage.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte

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