First lady Emine Erdoğan’s food bank initiative to cut food waste is expanding its network, as the number of food banks delivering food to needy households increased to 69. By spreading food banks across the country, the initiative aims to save TL 30 billion yearly. Currently, 32 provinces host food banks. Apart from depositing food, people can leave clothes and cleaning materials for delivery to families in need. The initiative, with the motto “sharing is gaining,” sets up food banks in cooperation with municipalities and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) that host the banks.
It brings together food producers or donors with people in need. Farmers, food producers, suppliers, retailers, restaurants and wholesalers joined the initiative for discarded but edible food to be delivered to the banks. Food banks aim to “recycle” 60% of the discarded food. The number of banks will increase to 81 by the end of 2019. Already, 32 municipalities host food banks, saving 30% in recycling food in six months.
The banks are supplied with items nearing expiration dates, items with packaging errors and import and export surplus.
They work on a supply and demand basis. Donors first declare the amount of the donation to the banks, and food bank workers visit families in need to determine their primary needs. They later hand out “debit cards” to families with a pre-installed virtual currency for food they need. Cardholders then visit the banks, which are in the form of supermarkets, and can obtain 30-40 different items, from food to cleaning materials.
Food banks currently exist in many cities, from İzmir and Istanbul to Çorum and Hatay. The western city of Manisa has the highest number with 19 food banks.
Food waste costs Turkey TL 214 billion every year. According to official figures, six million loaves of bread go to waste every day, which is equivalent to the cost of construction for at least 80 hospitals and 500 schools, officials say.
Several NGOs already run similar food banks, and they delivered food worth TL 24 million in the past year, as well as clothing donations worth TL 14.3 million.