KINDNESS ONE CAN CONSUME
A look at the food banks in Shanghai which were set up by Shanghai Oasis Ecological Conservation and Communication Center, and the support they have been receiving from enterprises foreign and domestic
“The basic food package is worth around 120 yuan and it includes rice, cooking oil and milk powder. We’ll also include infant formula if there’s a baby below the age of 3 in the family, and some snacks and milk if there’s a child between the ages of 4 and 18. We’ll adjust the aid package if it fails to meet their core needs,” said Zhang, who added that volunteers regularly communicate with families to find out if they have received the food and if the aid provided is sufficient.
Domestic and foreign support for the food banks have been growing steadily. In 2015, the food banks were backed by 42 donors, up from 29 a year before. French retail magnet Carrefour joined as a supplier in 2015 and Li Yuntao, public affairs manager for Carrefour East China, said that the company has donated 14 tons of food to the network in the past two years.
Song Zhengyuan, branding head of ucaiyuan.com, an e-commerce platform by Shanghai-based dairy producer Bright Dairy and Food Co Ltd, said the company has since 2015 been contributing to the food bank in Putuo district. Over at the food bank in Changning district, the bread is supplied by local chain bakery Relax Xinqiao.
“We have volunteers going to this bakery’s four outlets before they close every evening to collect and distribute the donated bread to impoverished families in the neighborhood. It’s an attempt to make the best use of local resources in our system,” Zhang said.
Fruitday.com, a Chinese fruit e-commerce platform, recently became a part of the initiative as well. Song Wenming, the company’s public relations director, said that Fruitday.com has arranged to deliver fruits to the banks every day as part of their delivery routines.
“I believe we should be promoting this public welfare project to more people and enterprises to let them know that there is a way to deal with food that they are about to abandon. As far as I know, the wastage rate of physical fruit stores is around 40 percent,” he said.
In a bid to ensure food safety, the food bank in Shanghai currently only collects food that are still relatively fresh, as compared to most food banks around the world which collect food items that are close to their “best before” dates. Also, individual donations are not accepted because of food safety concerns.
While this has ensured that the food banks have not received a single complaint regarding food safety, Li Bing, founder of Shanghai Oasis Ecological Conservation and Communication Center, said that it can also in turn discourage businesses from coming forward as it translates into a loss of profits.
Li added that while food products that are past their “best before” dates cannot be sold in many countries, they are still generally safe to consume within a period that is defined by half the duration of the production date to the “best before” date.
Li is also hoping that the food safety signs used in the country can be in line with international conventions, saying: “If China’s regulations in this area are revised, the policy of food banks can also be improved.”
Chen Xinghua, account manager of Yihai Kerry Kellogg Foods (Shanghai) Co Ltd, which has donated thousands of boxes of cereal to the food banks in the past year, said that the company usually chooses to donate products that are six months ahead of their “best before” dates.
“The most important thing we must ensure is safety. If we provide some products that are about to expire to the food bank, there may be possibility of transferring the risk to the consumers,” Chen said.
The "solidarity fridge" in the community center in Putuo district has been well received. Its contents are almost always cleared out before noon every day.