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

China Daily (USA) - - SHANGHAI | FOCUS - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The “sol­i­dar­ity fridges” which first ap­peared in Spain last year made their de­but in Shang­hai ear­lier in Oc­to­ber, and re­cep­tion to this con­cept of shar­ing left­overs with the needy in so­ci­ety has been over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive.

Thirty food items, in­clud­ing milk, yo­gurt, rice cakes and canned food pro­vided by su­per­mar­kets and restau­rants, are placed in a fridge in a com­mu­nity ac­tiv­ity cen­ter on Pux­iong Road, Pu­tuo dis­trict, ev­ery week­day. All res­i­dents of the com­mu­nity can help them­selves to the items.

Wang Longy­ing, a vol­un­teer who helps res­i­dents with the reg­is­tra­tion re­quired be­fore they are al­lowed to take the items, said that the fridge is al­most al­ways cleared out be­fore noon ev­ery day.

On the other side of the com­mu­nity ac­tiv­ity cen­ter, how­ever, there are also food shelves stocked with items such as rice, cook­ing oil, bis­cuits and milk pow­der. Only im­pov­er­ished fam­i­lies in the com­mu­nity can ac­cess this se­lec­tion and each fam­ily is lim­ited to one food item per month.

The Shang­hai Oa­sis Ecological Conservation and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Cen­ter, a Shang­hai-based non-gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion, has since 2014 set up four such food banks in the dis­tricts of Pudong, Pu­tuo and Changn­ing. In the past two years, about 120 tons of food have been do­nated by more than 40 busi­nesses, ben­e­fit­ting over 50,000 res­i­dents.

The prob­lem of wastage

Sta­tis­tics from the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the United Na­tions showed that while nearly 134 mil­lion peo­ple in China are suf­fer­ing from hunger, some $32 bil­lion worth of food is thrown away an­nu­ally in the coun­try.

The sit­u­a­tion is no dif­fer­ent in Shang­hai. Based on sta­tis­tics from the Shang­hai En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Bureau, more than 20,000 tons of house­hold garbage is pro­cessed in the city ev­ery day, and food ac­counts for more than 10 per­cent of it.

Experts feel that all this wasted food can be put to bet­ter use, es­pe­cially when 230,000 per­ma­nent res­i­dents in Shang­hai were found to be earn­ing just 2,190 yuan ($324) each month this year — the city’s low­est monthly in­come — ac­cord­ing to the Shang­hai Sta­tis­tics Bureau.

“On one hand, we hope to help im­pov­er­ished fam­i­lies cut down on food ex­penses and use the money saved for health and ed­u­ca­tion pur­poses in­stead. On the other hand, we also want to help en­ter­prises min­imise their food wastage,” said Zhang Qi­uxia, project di­rec­tor of the Shang­hai Oa­sis Ecological Conservation and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Cen­ter.

Song Chun­hui, di­rec­tor of Tangqiao Ser­vice Cen­ter for So­cial Or­ga­ni­za­tions, which pro­vides pol­icy con­sul­tancy, train­ing and co­op­er­a­tion for so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions in the Tangqiao area of Pudong dis­trict, said the project is wor­thy of pro­mot­ing as it turns in­di­vid­ual as­sets that are bound for the land­fills into use­ful so­cial as­sets.

“Com­pared with the gov­ern­ment’s sub­si­dies for im­pov­er­ished fam­i­lies, the project in­cludes many en­ter­prises and can ac­tu­ally reach more house­holds. More­over, the project is also a role model that shows peo­ple how we can take tar­geted measures to al­le­vi­ate poverty,” said Song.

Zhang said that peo­ple who re­quire help from the food banks can ei­ther ap­ply for as­sis­tance them­selves or seek rec­om­men­da­tions from their neigh­bors or res­i­den­tial com­mit­tees.

Upon re­ceiv­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion, the food bank will per­form a back­ground check to en­sure the au­then­tic­ity of an ap­pli­cant’s so­cial sit­u­a­tion. The food banks also have di­ver­si­fied aid plans to help fam­i­lies with dif­fer­ent needs.

“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.

Shang­hai food banks re­ceive firm sup­port

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.

Safety the top pri­or­ity

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.

More­over, the project is also a role model show­ing peo­ple how we can take tar­geted measures to al­le­vi­ate poverty.” Song Chun­hui, di­rec­tor of Tangqiao Ser­vice Cen­ter for So­cial Or­ga­ni­za­tions

ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY PHO­TOS BY GAO

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.

Vol­un­teers sort food prod­ucts at a food bank in Shang­hai.

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