Food banks have existed for many years in Norway but that’s only recently that a network and umbrella organization was created: Matsentralen Norge. Therefore, on the 1st of July 2018, Matsentralen Oslo passed the torch of FEBA membership to Matsentralen Norge.
We, as FEBA, wanted to know what this change means for the Norwegian food banks and what they are expecting from the European Food Banks Federation for the future. Paula Capodistrias, project leader at Matsentralen Norge, answered to our questions.
Matsentralen Oslo became Matsentralen Norge. Can you explain this change in some words?
“Well, a lot has happened since the opening of Matsentralen Oslo, our first Norwegian food bank, in 2013.
On one side, by the time the project that initiated Matsentralen Oslo (ForMat) ended in 2015, a lot of public and private engagement had built up, so Matvett, the food industry’s own organization for food waste prevention and reduction, saw the need to make a national plan for food waste reduction, and started working on a collaborative intention agreement to reduce food waste. The final industry agreement on food waste reduction was formally signed in 2017 by the whole Norwegian food industry and five departments of the Government who committed to reducing food waste by 50% by 2030.
In order to meet the goal of the agreement, Matvett made available different tools to help the food industry reduce food waste, and included Matsentralen and the donation of surplus food as one of the agreement’s strategies. Food companies that had been donating their surplus to Matsentralen Oslo, immediately saw the development of a network of a food banks as an opportunity to allocate the surplus from their many distribution and production centres across the country in order to reduce their food waste, so they quickly supported the initiative.
At the same time, since the opening of Matsentralen Oslo in 2013, the number of people seeking food assistance increased. Even in Norway people struggle to access food so, charity organizations around the country also started showing interest in replicating the experience of the food bank in Oslo, in order to access more food for people in need.
The increasing interest in rescuing and redistributing surplus food, from both the food industry and charity organizations, led to the opening of Matsentralen Tromsø and Matsentralen Bodø, the second and third Norwegian food banks, in 2016 and 2017 respectively. A few months later, upon the need to assist and coordinate the creation of more food banks, Matsentralen Norge, the umbrella organization of all food banks in Norway was created thanks to a grant from the Kavli Foundation.
The Industry agreement on food waste reduction is based on collaboration, so being a network of food banks, instead of individual initiatives, opened up a door of resources all food banks could suddenly share and mutually benefit from. Since the opening of Matsentralen Norge we assisted in the opening of the fourth and fifth food bank (Matsentralen Bergen and Matsentralen Trondheim) and we are currently working to support the opening of three more food banks before the end of the year (Matsentralen Rogaland, Matsentralen Vestfold & Telemark and Matsentralen Sør).”
What are the main challenges that your organization is facing? What are your goals for the future?
“The main challenge is financing of the food banks. Each food bank is responsible for its own economy but one of the objectives with the creation of Matsentralen Norge is to be able to help the food banks secure both regional and national funding. Now half of the funding of the food banks comes from donations from the food industry and the other half is covered through grants, private donations and local public funding. Most of this income needs to be renewed every year, so
basically the food banks managers would rather use the time rescuing and redistributing food than running after money.
This said, the signing of the “Industry agreement on food waste reduction” gives us hope that we will soon be able to secure public funding for the whole network so that we can continue the development of a strong network of food banks to reduce food waste and food insecurity throughout the country."
How would you describe the relation you have with the European Food Banks Federation (FEBA)?
For us FEBA is both a source of inspiration and support. It has opened opportunities for networking and collaboration and helped us explore challenges and opportunities together. We are both grateful and proud to belong to the network of European food banks!”
What advantages do you see of being part of FEBA?
“The most important benefit of being a member of FEBA has been having the opportunity to share experiences, explore common challenges and find solutions together with other food banks, at the different workshops and events organised by FEBA. But FEBA’s regular visits have also been enriching because it allowed us to explore our specific challenges and opportunities with a whole new fresh and wise look.”
What are you expecting from FEBA in the future?
“We are looking forward to even more opportunities to connect with other food banks to share and learn from each other’s experiences. The problematic of food waste brings new challenges but also opportunities to food banks, so I’m looking forward to explore this issue together in future events and workshops!”