"Food Bank motto is solidarity, food for all. We would love to see food banks across the country getting great support from all the representatives of the society.
No child should go to school without breakfast, and no elderly person should go to bed on an empty stomach; no food should be consumed "- says Wilma Verburg, Director of Food Bank in Albania in an exclusive interview for STAR BUSINESS.
She underlined that Food Bank Albania is gaining ground and a lot of support from different parties. During 2019, she said, the FRESH FOOD PROJECT and the SEEDS PROJECT were really successful. However, Verburg noted that the challenges of a food bank in a developing country are different from those in the EU.
Can you tell us a little more about Food Bank Albania and the ideas behind it?
Food Bank Albania's mission is to fight HUNGER by fighting FOOD ABUSE / EXCESS
Our mission is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the belief that all people, regardless of their social status, have the right to meet their basic human needs. (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25)
Furthermore, Food Bank Albania believes that by putting food surpluses to good use, Albania can alleviate poverty and address environmental issues related to food waste.
The idea of social justice is related to the idea of environmental protection. Over 30% of food produced worldwide is wasted. This waste not only destroys resources that could be used elsewhere, but also contributes significantly to gas production and climate change. By making sure the food that is produced is consumed, we can mitigate our environmental footprint and be the most responsible administrators of our planet.
Food Bank Albania
On October 1, 2013, a Food Bank was established in Albania with the aim of:
- to fight POVERTY and HUNGER in Albania, and
- reduce FOOD USE.
- a) Albania is the fourth poorest country in Europe and poverty and hunger continue to increase and food security for families in need seems quite dark. In Albania, there are 300,000 people who do not know where their next meal will come from. These people have about 1.2 Euros per day for their personal expenses which is the same as the international level of extreme poverty. There is a large group of people above this minimum who are still fighting for daily nutritious meals.
Marginalized households can use up to 80% of their food budget. The consequences of using a large percentage of the family budget for food are severe and far-reaching. Young people suffering from malnutrition have more health problems than their peers and may suffer from delays in cognitive development and motor skills. Moreover, households that spend most of their monthly budget on food have significantly less money available for school supplies, health care, and hygiene products. On the other hand, these issues contribute to additional social stigmas that make it more difficult for marginalized families to integrate into society. Young people from these families face significant educational challenges that can contribute to an ongoing cycle of poverty and marginalization. Food Bank Albania believes that fighting hunger is a key component of the biggest fight against social marginalization. By providing food to the most affected and excluded societies, we can help integrate them into society.
- b) Over 30% of food produced worldwide is discarded. This misuse not only destroys resources that can be used elsewhere, but also contributes significantly to gases and climate change problems. Through educational awareness and ongoing projects, we are paving the way for food waste reduction in Albania.
Our recently renovated school project, in collaboration with FAO UN and FEBA (European Federation of Food Banks) this year will reach about 20-30 thousand students in the country. The theme of this project is: Do well — save food.
Food Bank Albania focuses on collecting as much food as possible, on creating a stronger base of volunteers to have continuous contributions from businesses, as well as a much better, long-awaited relationship with the state authorities regarding the legislation of tax on food donations. We use a variety of methods to collect and distribute much-needed food for marginalized families.
Ongoing lobbying to change the VAT law in Albania on food donations.
The challenges of a food bank in a developing country are different from those in the EU.
For example: Albania has no laws in place that encourage businesses to donate food.
Reviewing VAT on donations could increase food donated by businesses.
It is indeed a favorable situation for all; public authorities, businesses that can redirect surpluses, NGOs and community groups that can always use food surpluses, the environment, and the needy.
How was 2019 for FB Albania and can you share any real success stories from your work?
* Our FRESH FOOD project went from start to 2018 providing more than 60 tons of food by 2019 for the 15 social kitchens we support across the country. Generous businesses are donating lots of fresh produce to people in need and sometimes we are not even able to process all of these donations. This is a good challenge to have in the food bank.
* THE SEED PROJECT operates in several areas throughout Albania with a total distribution of 2000 packages this year, doubling that of last year. This project continues to provide poor rural families with quality vegetable seeds to grow in their gardens.
This project won the first prize in 2018 for INNOVATION at the annual congress of European Food Banks.
Have you organized or will you organize a campaign for the people affected by the earthquake in Albania?
Yes. We have been part of UNDAC (United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination) meetings since the first day of earthquake response. We continue to support several social kitchens, NGOs, families and hotels with food and other items.
What are the indicators that show that Food Bank Albania is having an impact in the country?
The support of several Embassies and International Corporations, National and International Chambers of Commerce and as food manufacturing businesses are indicators of the importance of our work.
The number of our projects, staff and volunteers (200 people) involved, resources and partners across the country is constantly increasing every year.
The Ministry of Education has approved for the 4th year in a row our project in schools across the country that teaches students about the value and importance of respecting natural resources as the global community becomes more aware of the limited resources we need to provide enough for all.
What do you see beyond Food Bank Albania?
Food Bank motto is solidarity, food for all. We would love to see food banks across the country getting great support from all the representatives of the society.
No child should go to school without breakfast, and no elderly person should go to bed on an empty stomach; no food should be consumed.
A short list of facts on food abuse can be found at this link: