Social Grocery r

image001 1Soreal- a ground breaking public-private initiative in Belgium

Everything happened three years ago, when meetings took place between leaders of the futures partners. Read about the successes of a public/private partnership.

Identifying the need to distribute surplus food

In 2013 in Mons, Belgium, there was a sincere desire to recover surplus food from many shops, which could be donated to local charities who supported the people in need with food supplies. The words "circular economy" were just beginning to be uttered at the time, so the idea was innovative. The need for food supplies (to charities) was there, and so was the surplus food, the only problem was: the recovery and distribution of the surplus food supplies from retailer to charity.

Getting started on the partnership

It soon became clear, that to organize such an activity, volunteers from the local food bank would not have enough resources to manage this task, the full recovery of food, and at the same time attend to the activities of running the food bank. A partnership was thus created, whereby the municipal authorities would allocate one full time manager for the program as well as 10 workers employed under "social inclusion contracts" The food bank would then be in charge of providing equipment- mainly related to transport and logistics as well as management expertise and systems to cover running expenses.

There were several other obstacles along the way, but the devotion and will to fight against food waste and hunger was unnegotiable. The obstacles were translated into more positive concepts: "How can we best make food surpluses available to persons in need". The objectives were clear:

  • Collect daily from as many retailers as possible
  • Ensure food security
  • Ensure an ecological collection
  • Ensure food quality
Foster human development by:
  • Creating jobs
  • Offering possibilities to acquiring new skills
  • Assist persons in need of food assistance
  • Contribute to decrease food wastage and save natural resrouces

Final results of a win-win situation

Well, after a good 27 months of non-stop working, here are the results:

113.000 kg. of food collected from retailers and in addition 334.000 kg were delivered from the food bank to charities who support approximately 2000 persons! The distribution of the surplus food to the local charities, both from local retailers and from the food bank, was only possible thanks to the workers employed by the municipality.

 The recovery and distribution of surplus food, has thus turned into a win-win situation for everyone involved. Today the collaboration has created 2 permanent jobs and ten workers hired under by the municipality under "social inclusion".

New model for food banking 

The experience of co-operation between the municipality, the retailers and the food bank is so conclusive that this model is now attracting enormous national interest. Taken to a different level, it is an example of what must happen in society: unite forces and resources to rescue good food, rescue people and rescue our planet.