Citizens rescuing and sharing food in Berlin

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This intervention has been translated into a brief governance scenario. Take a look at Tackling Waste: Community Practices for Food Rescuing and Sharing

Contents

a) Basic characteristics and ambitions of the intervention

1. What is the name and the urban context (e.g. city/district) of the intervention? Please also indicate the geographical scale of the intervention (e.g. neighborhood, district, small/medium/ capital city, metropolitan area ...). [Example: “Brixton Energy in Brixton, London (neighborhood in capital city)”]

The selected intervention is called Foodsharing and specifically focuses on the installation of public fridges in Berlin, Germany. These fridges - or “Fair-Teiler” (derived from the German words “fair” and “verteilen”, “to distribute”) - are dispersed around the city and give people access to free and anonymously shared food. In 2018, the city of Berlin counted around 25 fridges (SHARECITY_02: 202).

The intervention specifically takes place at the capital city level. However, it includes different scales of governance. At the local level, such as a neighbourhood or a city district, public fridges are managed by a local community of food savers. Scaling-up, Foodsharing.de as an organization is structured at national and regional levels and relies on an online platform to connect food-donors to food-recipients.

2. What sector(s) (alias domain/ policy field) is the intervention primarily implemented in ? [e.g. housing, mobility, energy, water, health, local economy, biodiversity, CC adaptation, etc.]

The intervention is implemented in the sector of food. Specifically, it addresses food waste, food security, and food safety issues.

3. What is the intervention (i.e. situated experiment) aiming to achieve in terms of sustainability and justice? [If possible, please copy from a project website and give a reference]

The creation of the public fridges addresses sustainability issues by preventing food waste. By collecting food and sharing it with others, foodsharing attempts to reduce the amount of edible food that is wasted every day. The aim is also to raise awareness about the amount of waste that is generated by our food system. As a food saver in Berlin pointed out during an interview: “of course part of food-sharing is educational” (SHARECITY_02: 209). Demonstrating how perfectly good food is continuously thrown away contributes to politicizing the food issue.

The public fridges also address questions related to justice because they provide relief for food insecurity. In this context, food is understood as a “common good." This refers to resources which are “jointly governed, stewarded and shared by their users” (Ostrom and al. 1999, in SHARECITY 02: 203).

4. What is the interventions’ timeframe?

Foodsharing.de was created in 2012 and the public fridges were introduced two years later in 2014 (SHARECITY_02: 202). However, due to institutional and organizational constraints introduced in 2017 (see below), many public fridges in Berlin were closed and the access of the remaining ones is restricted.

5. By what governance mode is the intervention characterized primarily? (see Appendix 1: Three modes of governance)

Foodsharing.de is led by non-government actors. Specifically, Foodsharing.de is self-governed by members and based on a hierarchical and distributed governance structure shaped by “trust, sharing and food safety” (SHARECITY_02: 202).

6. Why do you consider it worthwhile to study and share experiences made in the context of this governance intervention for sustainable and just cities?[1]

This governance intervention is worthwhile to study and share because it meets the four criteria (mentioned in the footnote). Specifically, it provides an interesting example of a non-government led intervention based on the members’ self-governance, which works quite effectively in itself but faces obstacles related to regulatory framework.

7. In which project deliverable(s) or other documents can information be found on this situated (i.e. place specific) governance intervention?

Mostly:

b) Additional basic characteristics, links to earlier UrbanA work

8. EU Project-context of the intervention:

  • a. Has the intervention been developed or studied in the context of an (EU-funded?) project? (please name the project, its duration and include a link to the project website here).

The intervention has been studied as part of an EU-funded project called SHARECITY (2015-2021). The project aims at identifying and examining practices of city-based food sharing economies, referring to new forms of exchanges which entail, in most cases, environmental and social commitments.

Specifically, food sharing refers to a set of practices that includes eating (consuming), giving food (redistributing), or experiencing activities (eating together) that are done collectively. The Sharecity100 database maps food sharing initiatives all around the world (SHARECITY_11). From it, nine cities have been selected for conducting in-depth ethnographic analyses. Foodsharing.de is a case study for this project, though the organization itself was not created within the framework of SHARECITY.

  • b. According to WP3’s database of approaches, which approach(es) does the intervention best fit under? Where applicable, please indicate if the intervention is found in a project that has been explicitly mentioned in the database.

The intervention fits under the sharing and cooperatives for urban commons approach. Sharecity project is explicitly mentioned in the database as it shows the transformative potential of food sharing initiatives for sustainable cities.

  • c. Have some project deliverables been coded in the context of UrbanA’s WP4?

Yes: SHARECITY_(02)_Sharing food_Berlin case_MORROW 2019

9. Problematization and priority:

  • a. How exactly has inequality and exclusion been problematized (by whom) in the context of this intervention?

The question of inequality and exclusion has been addressed by the founders of foodsharing.de with their intentions to establish food as a “common good”, accessible to everyone, and free from monetary transactions (Fellmer 2014, in SHARECITY_02: 204).

Public fridges also breakdown the boundaries between donors, recipients, and providers. Hence, the aim is to to reduce the stigma of free food and deconstruct power relations and the perpetuation of inequalities often seen in food aid organizations. Indeed, donors and recipients do not need to meet social criteria (i.e. precarity, low incomes…) to share or receive food anonymously. This differs from other food aid organizations such as food banks or the German TAFEL. With the blurring identification of donors and recipients, public fridges step out of the scheme of assistantship and refuse the relation of power and the domination it implies.

  • b. Has the achievement of justice explicitly been named as a major motivation behind the intervention?

Justice is explicitly pointed out as a major motivation behind the creation of public fridges. Established two years after the creation of foodsharing.de, public fridges address exclusionary issues and make food available to everyone. Both food savers and external recipients can access these public fridges. This is highly valued among food savers (SHARECITY_02: 205).

In addition, public fridges provide opportunities for gathering and reduce social isolation. Indeed, located in public and/or open places (e.g. at the entrance of buildings, often next to community centres), public fridges are suitable for regular encounters. As a food saver recalls: “It (a public fridge) also has a social aspect. Because you often meet people there [...] then you stand there and chat for a bit and it’s totally nice” (SHARECITY_02: 205). Therefore, public fridges contribute to enhance urban sociability and community-building and de-stigmatize free food at the same time.

Drivers of injustices Based on WP4 coding Based on own assessment
1. Exclusive access to the benefits of sustainability infrastructure X
2. Material and livelihood inequalities
3. Racialized or ethnically exclusionary urbanization
4. Uneven and exclusionary urban intensification and regeneration
5. Uneven environmental health and pollution patterns
6. Unfit institutional structures X
7. Limited citizen participation in urban planning
8. Lack of effective knowledge brokerage and stewardship opportunities
9. Unquestioned Neoliberal growth and austerity urbanism X
10. Weak(ened) civil society X

c) Actor constellations

10. Who initiated the intervention?

The public fridges were initiated by members of Foodsharing.de in Berlin. This community-based intervention is an innovation within the social movement of Foodsharing.de.

It was initiated without institutional support (i.e. urban policies or public food programs) and foodsharing aims to remain outside such institutional framework. [2]


11. Who are the envisioned benefiters of the intervention? (both at a local level and higher, if applicable)

The envisioned benefiters of public fridges are food savers/sharers themselves and any recipients among the local inhabitants of Berlin. Public fridges provide access to free food and contribute to community-building among their users. In addition, food companies or retailers also benefit from the intervention because less food they handle is wasted (i.e. ethical dimension) and the costs related to waste disposal are exempted (i.e. economical dimension).

12. Who else is (going to be) involved in the intervention, and what was/is their main role?

Actor types[3] Yes Actor name and role[4]
Academic organizations
Religious organizations
Civil society organizations X The members of foodsharing who are responsible for maintaining public fridges.
Hybrid/ 3rd sector organizations
Platforms
NGOs
Social movements
Political parties
Media
Unions
Social entreprises
For profit entreprises X Food companies and retailers that give unsellable food to food savers.
Local/regional government X The Food Safety Authority of Berlin that ensures compliance with the food safety laws.

The Berlin Senate that locally enforces (food safety) regulations.

Regional organizations
National government X The German legislator that translates into the national law the European food safety regulations.
Supranational government X (To some extent) The European Union that defines the food safety regulation.
International networks
Other initiatives

13. Which particular interactions among various stakeholders (stakeholder configurations) were crucial in enabling the intervention to emerge successfully? This could include direct or indirect impacts on interventions.

The intervention was triggered by the existing Foodsharing network along with other community organizations that were involved in similar social and cultural interventions.

Foodsharing.de provides social resources (i.e. experienced activists in food saving) as well as organizational resources (i.e. the online platform that connects donors to recipients) for establishing public fridges. Most public fridges are hosted by other community organizations collaborating with foodsharing and provide space for the fridges (e.g. plugging them into electricity). This network of relationships supports activists eager to set up new public fridges and facilitate the operating of existing ones.

14. To what extent, in what form and at what stages have citizens participated in the shaping of the intervention?

The public fridges have been established by the volunteer members of foodsharing.de. Thus, public fridges are a community-based, grassroots initiative. Not only have citizens created foodsharing and installed public fridges, but they also regulate them and are responsible for keeping them running. Public fridges are thus self-managed systems to share food and are operated without public intervention.

15. How are responsibilities and/or decision-making power distributed among actors?

Foodsharing.de is hierarchically structured. Each position entails specific responsibilities that help maintain trust between activists in the organization and ensure the smooth functioning of foodsharing.de (SHARECITY_13: 66).

Registered through the online platform, "food sharers” can take food from public dispensers and through the process get better acquainted with the project and other activists. As Foodsharing.de aims at being open to everyone, this first level of commitment has a very low threshold.

However, becoming a “food saver” is more exclusive. It requires the successful completion of an online quiz about food policies, their ideological stance, and organizational rules in addition to attendance at local meetings. Food saver “applicants” have to take part in several food rescue operations to receive a “FoodSaver passport,” which allows them to visit partner companies for picking up food. This status entails a high level of commitment and additional responsibilities (SHARECITY_13: 67).

Further hierarchical levels include the “store coordinators," who manage food savers’ coordination with the partner stores, and “ambassadors,” who are responsible for accrediting new food savers and for creating new partnerships with food retailers (SHARECITY_13). The “orgateam” coordinate and decide the national policy of foodsharing.de (Yunity, 2017, in SHARECITY_02: 203).

It is notable that the rules, including those regarding food safety and sharing, are enforced by the membership through self-monitoring and peer surveillance (SHARECITY_02: 208). Every “violation," such as being late for a pick-up, carelessness with sharing food, or poor maintenance of public fridges, are reported by other members. Excessive infractions are sanctioned by ambassadors and lead to the loss of food savers' privileges or even to exclusion. On the contrary, good practices are rewarded by co-savers. All violations and rewards are reported in an ICT platform (e.g. blame or “trust bananas” to reward positive behaviour). Specifically, Foodsharing.de is based on a reputational economy mediated by their online platform (SHARECITY_02: 208).

16. Exclusion:

  • a. Which stakeholders or social groups were excluded (at which stages)?

Public fridges are meant to be accessible to everyone. Whereas most public fridges are located in community centers, their access may depend on their stigma or that of their users (e.g. a community center having certain connotations or a specific cultural/political identity). In that sense, some people could exclude themselves (interview with O.). However, the exclusive dimension related to public fridges is not really about accessing food but rather about actively engaging in the organization of food sharing. As mentioned above, becoming a foodsharer entails a very exclusive procedure, including a quiz testing your abilities and commitment. In addition, foodsharing rules and ideology (written and detailed in the wiki) and the quiz are only written in German. This quiz thus excludes non-German speakers and greatly reduces the scope of members who are eligible/able to become food savers.

  • b. Is there any indication why this may have happened? With what outcomes? Has anything been done to overcome such exclusions?

This exclusionary dimension is related to Foodsharing's hierarchical structure. Food is made available for everyone but only those who are willing to commit themselves to a certain extent (including picking food on a regular basis, redistributing it, etc.) can take responsibility for collecting food. Food sharers are sometimes people who have already collected food for the community and are willing to volunteer time or energy that people in need may not be able/willing to commit.

The exclusionary dimension of the quiz is an ongoing discussion within foodsharing. It has been created with the idea to filter people who could create problems (including being too greedy or giving the organization a bad reputation). As Foodsharing becomes more popular and has many applicants, the organization does not have the capacity to train so many people about food safety and collection, much of which the quiz already covers (including values and knowledge). If revising the quiz has been discussed within the organisation, the ability to do it seems beyond most of the food sharers (interview with O.)


d) Enabling conditions for the implementation of the intervention

17. What circumstances or events are reported to have triggered the intervention? (In what ways?)

Foodsharing and their public fridges were created as a response to the gridlock of a food system that generates too much waste. Whereas food regulations do not effectively address this problem, this community-based initiative developed to find a solution that would alleviate and raise awareness about this issue. Foodsharing developed in a context of growing public awareness about food issues and the development of other forms of sharing economies, including initiatives in the sector of clothing, mobility, and energy (interview O.).

18. Are particular substantive (multi-level) governmental policies considered to be highly influential in the genesis and shaping of the intervention? (If easily possible, please specify the policy, the policy field and the governance level mainly addressed, and characterize it along Appendix 2: Policy typology)

The intervention has been framed by regulatory legislation (i.e. administrative, command-and-control) that address food risk, safety, and waste policies.

Food risk policies regulate the food chain “from farm to fork” (i.e. production, proceeding, storage, transportation, distribution and redistribution) and food hygiene policies outline food safety best practices (i.e. the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems, the cold chain as well as the Codex Alimenarius standards). Those regulations are mainly set up at the European level and are adapted nationally and locally.

Public fridges challenge the legal framework regulating food risk and food waste. This legal framework includes three levels of regulation - European, national and local - and only applies to food businesses (i.e. entrepreneurs handling food). At the European level, it includes EU 178/2002 General Food Law regulating food risk. This law enforces responsibility for those dealing with food and mandates the total traceability of the food chain (i.e. from one step backward and one step forward). In addition, EU 852/2004, Food Hygiene Law regulates food safety best practices and identifies food which is safe or non-injurious to health. EU 852 regulation is particularly responsive to local contexts and gives national and/or local authorities the competence to determine in which circumstances this regulation is to be applied (i.e. to determine whether an organization is a business or not) (SHARECITY 02: 206).

19. What constitutional responsibilities and rules does the intervention build upon? In other words, what rights, powers, and/or responsibilities, does the country's constitution (in a broad sense) award municipalities, states, utilities, NGOs, citizens etc. and how does this impact the intervention?

According to the hierarchy of norms, European laws (described above) are transposed into the German federal law. At the national level, the European laws are enforced and supported by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). The latter is responsible for food monitoring through the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) and the Federal Institute of Risk Assessment (BfR). However, the responsibility for food control lays on the federal states (Länder). At the local level, each state has a Food Safety Authority (FSA) that ensures compliance with the food safety laws.[5]The FSA is competent to determine whether an organization is a food business or not and thus, whether it has to comply with EU regulations or not. In addition, food safety entails to look at the German civil code for consumer protection (i.e. § 13 BGB) stating that businesses are liable for the goods and services they provide (including food) (SHARECITY 02: 206).

However, foodsharing.de is assumed to be uncovered by food law, despite being framed in response to it. Public fridges aim to remain outside of this food legislation. Theoretically, European as well as national food safety regulations apply to businesses and not domestic users. Specifically, businesses are characterized by a certain continuity and degree of organization. In contrast, public fridges seek to remain in the realm of domestic use. This is justified by the non-continuity of the activity (i.e. the relationship between users of public fridges are uncertain as there is no supervision of who exchanges food with whom) and the low degree of organization (i.e. the small quantity of food gathered in public fridges refers to domestic and not to business uses).[6] In doing so, foodsharing aims at avoiding the need for compliance with the guidelines of a food business.

20. According to project material/and or interviews, in what ways have particularities of (local) political culture influenced the character and success of the intervention? (i.e. trust in political institutions, citizens’ will to interact with policy makers and vice versa, traditions of cooperation etc.)

The local political culture has influenced the character of the intervention. Foodsharing members established themselves as actors of the food system. It means that a civil society organization feels entitled to facilitate interventions in the city, to redesign and occupy the public space, and to address disfunction in the food system. Citizens are political actors giving themselves agency for political action, indicating a strong democratic culture (interview O.).

21. What are financial arrangements that support the intervention?

Foodsharing.de is self-financed through donations. In 2012, the organization started with a capital collected through crowdfunding (i.e. via the platform Stratnext). Today, a small circle of supporting members as well as single donations provide funding. The organization seeks to minimize its expenses (i.e. foodsharing motto is “as little money as possible should be used”). These expenses include the Foodsharing-Festival, costs for accounting, traveling costs and the salary of one single employee in a mini-job.[7]

Foodsharing.de is run on a voluntary basis and is based on unpaid commitment. Voluntary work includes the creation of the online platform, the webhosting (sponsored), the support from lawyers and other tasks such as the maintenance of the online platform and mediation of regional groups. Drawing from an ideological perspective, foodsharing.de aims to be as free from financial support as possible (there are some exceptions where money is used) and work with committed people without money transactions.[8]

Foodsharing.de does not receive any public subsidies and is run without support from public authorities.

22. Have any of the above conditions changed within the intervention’s timeframe, which have (significantly) influenced it in a positive or negative way?

Yes, changes in the understanding of which organizations are food-businesses or not have influenced the intervention in a negative way. Foodsharing.de Berlin has been recognized by the FSA as a food business and thus, has been asked to comply with the food safety regulation (see below Q.23 “obstacles”).

Note: Certain contexts, which provide opportunities to learn from other relevant experiences, may also be a supportive framework condition. Please see section h, questions 26 + 30 on learning context.

e) Obstacles to successful intervention implementation

23. What obstacles to implementing the intervention (both generally, and in this particular context) have been identified, relating to:

  • a. Regulatory framework

The public fridges monitored by foodsharing.de in Berlin were targeted by the FSA of Berlin, which has a narrow understanding of business and considers that foodsharing falls into this category. Thus, the FSA brought the EU 178/2002 General Food Law regulating food risk and the EU 852/2004 Food Hygiene Law regulating food safety practices in opposition to foodsharing.de. Consequently, foodsharing in Berlin must be responsible for the content of the fridges and for the traceability of the food one step backward (i.e. before entering the fridges) and one step forward (i.e. who is taking it). This would require food savers to record every single food item which is saved and to designate an individual (i.e. a member of foodsharing) who is responsible for it.

In January 2017, the Berlin Senate enforced a new set of rules governing public fridges in line with the EU 178 and 852 regulations. It required foodsharing.de to follow the safety rules such as a business and to name an individual “responsible for the contents of each fridge and their traceability” (SHARECITY 02: 207).

  • b. Legitimacy

The self-governance practices of foodsharing opposes food governance practices built upon the EU and national regulations (SHARECITY_02: 203). Indeed, food governance at the level of the European Union is built upon risks and responsibilities. Drawing on Ulrich Beck’s theory of risk, food safety regulations understand risk at a global level rather than at the individual one. Thus, preventing food risk entails scientific processes of risk assessment which rely on technological methods applied by experts rather than by people (SHARECITY_02: 204). On the contrary, food savers understand risk at a local scale, from the point of collection (food stores) to recipients. Hence, the conflict opposing foodsharing and the FSA about the food safety issue over public fridges depends on different scales of governance and understanding of risk.

  • c. Public awareness

n/a

  • d. Finances

Foodsharing is run by (unpaid) volunteers and does not have the capacity (i.e. not enough human resources) to record the circulation of the food prior to and after the fridges (in contrast to organizations that employ people such as food banks) (SHARECITY_02: 209).

  • e. Others (please name)

The obstacles related to the regulatory framework as a cultural aspect. The European food safety legislation applies everywhere. However, in many countries there is often a grey area, such as community initiatives, which is tolerated by the public actors such as food safety authorities. In Germany and specifically in Berlin, the FSA does not leave room for this grey area and establishes a strict separation between the private and the public realms. Collectively dealing with food outside of households is under the responsibility of the FSA (interview with O.)

f) (Institutional) Work done to overcome obstacles

24. What has been done by each central actor group to overcome which particular obstacles in the way of successfully implementing the intervention? (this may include institutional Work - maintaining, disrupting, and creating new rules, applying to both formal laws/regulations and informal norms and expectations.)

Name of obstacle What work was/is being done to overcome this obstacle and by what actor groups?
Call for Foodsharing to endorse liability for the content of the fridges.

Limited handling capacities

Foodsharing refuses to comply with this call on practical and ideological grounds. First, no members would accept to endorse the liability for a fridge which is not possible to be fully controlled. In contrast to organizations that employ people to record the circulation of the food (such as food banks), a volunteer-based organization does not have enough human resources to do this work. On the other hand, the EU regulations contrast with some founding principles of the public fudges such as the anonymity of donors/recipients. Recording the circulation of food would indeed lapse this anonymity (SHARECITY_02: 207).

Instead of designating someone responsible for a fridge, Foodsharing communicated the names and contact details of their entire Foodsharing group. In doing so, not only they refuse that one individual undertakes the liability for public fridges, but also, they stand for the collective management of these fridges (SHARECITY_02: 210).

The enforcement by the Berlin Senate of a new set of rules governing public fridges in line with the EU 178 and 852 regulations. In response to the Berlin Senate enforcement, Foodsharing Berlin intended to reframe public fridges as private “club goods” and not businesses (SHARECITY_02: 210). In doing so, they have restricted access to public fridges to Foodsharing members. In addition, Foodsharing Berlin publicly stated that Foodsharing is not a business and that the food inside the fridges is not regulated. This statement was issued with a view to discharge the organization from its liability towards food.

The FSA started to pressure the community centers hosting public fridges by threatening them with a fine. Put at financial risk, many organizations have stopped to host public fridges.

g) Reported outcomes

25. What are reported outcomes of the intervention? This may include economic outcomes, political outcomes, ability to reach sustainability and justice targets, etc.

Regarding their sustainability goals, Foodsharing.de has prevented an enormous amount of food from being wasted. Since 2012, Foodsharing.de has “rescued” about 12,796,298 kg of food.[9] Foodsavers rescued nearly a metric ton of food in Berlin alone.[10]This includes the food which has been saved before (from 2012 to 2014) and after the introduction of public fridges.

The public fridges established in Berlin were an attempt to address sustainability and social justice. However, the obstacles posed by the Berlin Senate and the rules enforced by the FSA reduced the impact of public fridges. Their closing and the restricted access of those remaining few jeopardizes the core objective of the initiative, which was to make food available to everyone and to destigmatize free food.

h) Learning involved in establishing the intervention

Please fill in any information on social learning that has occured in this intervention (conceptualized here as “Learning context, content, and process” in line with the FOODLINKS project)[11]. Where possible, please differentiate your response into learning done by specific actor groups.

Learning context

(i.e. the configuration and social environment enabling the learning process)

26. According to the TRANSIT project’s four mechanisms for empowerment – i. funding; ii. legitimacy; iii. knowledge sharing, learning, and peer support; or iv. visibility and identity – please briefly describe the following, and indicate where the intervention has been developed or supported as part of which formal collaborations, networks or projects:

  • a. any previous experiences in the same urban context (e.g. city…) that the intervention is (reportedly) building upon? This could include any relevant experiences in the same or another sector.

Other kinds of food sharing initiatives developed in Berlin, including community gardens, food banks, and meal saving. Other forms of sharing economies focus on sectors like clothing, services, mobility etc.. Foodsharing members tend to be involved in other sharing initiatives, which informs how a context of social innovation can be a fertile ground for the development of similar interventions. Building on a network and having experience in engaging collectively may have been crucial for the creation of public fridges.

  • b. any inter-city partnerships, or transfers from experiences elsewhere that have (reportedly) been important in the emergence of this intervention?

Foodsharing started in Cologne (Germany)and regional branches of the organization developed in other German cities. However, Foodsharing in Berlin initiated the creation of public fridges. This was spurred from experiences members had had from working in other sectors. There are no explicit evidences of this inter-city learning.

Learning content

27. Has any acquired knowledge (e.g. technical knowledge, awareness of local political procedures etc.) been reported as particularly helpful to this intervention?

  • a. from previous experiences in the same urban context

n/a

  • b. from inter-city partnerships, or transfers from experiences elsewhere

Knowledge has been acquired from other regional food sharing groups in Germany, especially Cologne where the headquarter of the organization is located. Specifically, food sharing Berlin can compare how other regional groups deal with the food safety legislation. Hence, Foodsharing Berlin can advocate that the organization is not recognized as a business in the other Federal States of Germany and use this argument to oppose the local legislation.

  • c. from other knowledge gathering/research

n/a

Learning process

28. In what ways has the intervention been adapted to specific circumstances of the targeted urban context based on the learned content reported in question 27?

Foodsharing and public fridges successfully took hold in Berlin because it is adapted to the local context. Berlin has an active subculture and appropriate urban infrastructure to facilitate strong sharing-based economies.

First, there are a lot of people in Berlin with the time and the enthusiasm to engage in this type of action. This is a part of the local subculture with a politic attached to it that made the intervention possible to emerge (interview with O.).

Second, foodsharing can develop in a context where a lot of food is available (mostly urban context) and the infrastructure to help the logistics of food collection and distribution (such as bicycles, public transport etc.) (SHARECITY_14). Because much of the food is perishable, donors and recipients must be quickly connected. Thus, short distances and facilitated access matter.

29. Based on your answers to question 24, how has overcoming obstacles (reportedly) contributed to the learning process?

The members of Foodsharing Berlin confronted with these obstacles learned how to navigate political and administrative channels. They got used to making public statements and press releases and participated in meetings with local authorities and elected officials. In that sense, facing these obstacles has contributed to the politicization of the Foodsharing members (interview with O.).

In addition, by refusing to comply with the requisite food traceability and individual liability (see Q. 24), the organization has reframed and strengthened its political line and clarified the ambition its movement (inferred from SHARECITY_02: 210).

30. Please list any tools that enabled the learning process (e.g. various Knowledge Brokerage Activities from pg. 24 of FOODLINK’s Deliverable 7.1 - linked in footnote)[12] and the actors involved in using them.

The tools that enable the learning process include:

  • the ICT- platform that gives information about Foodsharing.de’s actions and food distribution.
  • the mentorship between prospective food savers and initiated food savers.
  • the use wiki that compiles the political line and all the practical information that enable prospective food sharer/saver to enter the organization.

i) Learning involved in establishing interventions elsewhere (transferability)

31. Suggestions regarding transferability.

  • a. Have any suggestions been made about a replicability, scaleability or transferability of the intervention? [e.g. in the documentation of the intervention in a project or the press? Links would be perfect]

The members of Foodsharing are actively making sure that the initiative is spread. Active members have tried to expand Foodsharing outside of Germany. For instance, Foodsharing developed in the Netherlands, where some public fridges are now located in Amsterdam and Wageningen (interview with O.).

Specifically, the group Yunity[13] originates from the Foodsharing movement and is developing tools and software for enabling other people in multiple contexts to start their own food sharing network. There are going all across the world doing Akaton to create community-based software and logistics tools to start foodsharing. The idea is to share this technology that supports foodsharing beyond the original movement (Interview with O.).

In addition, the replicability of food sharing initiatives such as Foodsharing.de has been pointed out in the project SHARECITY and its toolkit called “SHARE IT toolkit” (SHARECITY_09).[14] The case of Foodsharing in Berlin demonstrates food governance arrangements and issues stressing food sharing regulations (i.e. social rules and legal instruments), as well as the obstacles to be overcome in order to replicate and transfer sharing initiatives.

  • b. Transferability to what kind of contexts has been suggested?

Public fridges can be transferred to many different urban contexts. However, a set of prerequisites have been identified (interview with O.).

  • a political subculture and enthusiasm from people to engage in sharing activities
  • the feeling of the right to the city. This means that people feel that the city is theirs, making it possible to redesign it, to appropriate the space, and make interventions.

For example, in a city like New York City, inhabitants do not necessarily feel this right to the city as the tight to use public space is different from Berlin. Community fridges just developed in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, because so many people could not access grocery stores or food banks.

  • political structures offering space for such initiatives to develop.
  • c. Who has made the claims?

The claim about replicability as been made by the intervention’s proponent i.e. Foodsharing members.

  • d. What limits to transferability to broader contexts have been discussed?

On top of the prerequisites detailed in Q.31 b), uncertainty about the legal aspect of Foosharing is a limit to transferability. Many people including activists or food retailers do not want to adopt liability for donated or saved food, which greatly hampers saving and sharing. Legal framework that removes liability for donated food, such as the Good Samaritan Laws in the US, would allow such initiatives to develop. However, such a regulation would come into tension with the EU regulation that requires that someone is always responsible for food, thus creating a free zone.

In addition, limits to transferability also depends on how people get food and how it is delivered. It is attached to the political culture and to what people see as the role of citizens and of the state. If people are used to a food bank to do this work, they might not engage themselves because it is the responsibility of government and social structures to make sure that the people have enough money to afford food (interview with O.).

32. In what forms has the learning process, including stories of overcoming obstacles, been recorded for, and/or made accessible to city makers also from elsewhere?[15]

The obstacles faced by Foodsharing.de Berlin have been recorded in the wiki of Foodsharing.de[16] as well as the response of Foodsharing Berlin (i.e. refusal to comply with the injunction).

33. Have any signs of collaboration, support, or inspiration already been reported between actors involved in this intervention and others that follow its example? (e.g. in “follower cities”?)

Foodsharing is actively expanding to other cities and sharing tools to create Foodsharing networks. The Foodsharing group is expanding in other countries with the support of German activists.

On top of the Yunity groups (see Q. 31 a), other collaborations have been reported. For example in London, a non-profit app connecting food donors to recipients called Olio[17] has been created with the support of Foodsharing members. These people have been hired by Olio to help them to develop this application. Other types of applications such as Too Good To Go try to monetize the relationships that food savers have built with restaurants and food retailers but also contribute to expanding ITC mediated food sharing. There are many other initiatives that are directly or indirectly connected to Foodsharing (interview with O.).

In addition, the SHARECITY1000 database[18] lists 124 kinds of food sharing initiatives in Berlin (including Foodsharing.de) from a range of activities including community gardens, shared meals, shared bread etc.. These initiatives have not been reportedly inspired from Foodsharing.de

j) Structural learning

34. Has the intervention influenced higher-level governance arrangements such that sustainability and justice are considered (together) in a more durable, structural way? In other words, are there any observations about more structural, long-term changes as a result of the intervention?

  • For example: new programs run by local councils, new modes of citizen participation, new mediating bodies
  • Is there other evidence that the project has contributed to enhancing sustainable and just governance in cities in a general sense?

The intervention does not seem to have really changed governance arrangements in a structural way. Some People in foodsharing are also involved in local food policy councils and assimilated structures.

Since Foodsharing is a loose and open network, everyone has their own motivations to commit and it is not possible to generalize everyone's aims. Whereas some members have a radical political view and aim at changing the food system and the whole economy, other people just want to have less food waste and have a food system that generates less waste. Foodsharing works to some degree because there is space for these different motivations (more or less radical) and offers everyone to join the movement.

k) Reflections on important governance concepts

35. What other aspects of governance, that were not covered above, are important to highlight, too?

It seems important to stress the potential of ICT-mediated sharing to allow initiatives to develop in the future. These new forms of food sharing extend the spaces and the social spheres where sharing takes place. As they involve diverse actors such as the civil society and policy makers and tackle food regulations, ICT-mediated food sharing constructs new governance arrangements. It implies a set of rules and practices that are established by the interaction – conflicting or not - between citizens, entrepreneurs, and policy makers to regulate food sharing. The disruptive potential of ICT-mediated sharing should be further inquired (SHARECITY_06).

36. From your perspective as a researcher, which word or phrase characterizes this governance intervention most concisely? (Please attach your name to the characterization) In other words, what is the biggest takeaway from this intervention about governance arrangements?

Foodsharing.de is based on a reputational economy mediated by an online platform. This study case highlights the potential of the reputational economy of ICT-mediated sharing to promote self-governance in common initiatives (SHARECITY 02: 208). Foodsharing governance arrangements offer an alternative to the current legal framework for regulating food in a more sustainable and fair way.

Appendix 1: Three modes of governance

(from NATURVATION project)

NATURVATION's NBS-Atlas distinguishes three categories of governance arrangements (dubbed "management set-ups":

  • Government-led (Gov)
  • Co-governance or hybrid governance (mix of responsibilities between government and non-government actors) (c/h)
  • Led by non-government actors (NGO)

Alternatively or additionally, the following four modes of governing (as distinguished also by Bulkeley/Kern 2006 and Zvolska et al. 2019) could be used as a typology: Castan Broto/ Bulkeley 2013:95

  1. Self-governing, intervening in the management of local authority operations to ‘‘lead by example’’;
  2. Provision, greening infrastructure and consumer services provided by different authorities;
  3. Regulations, enforcing new laws, planning regulations, building codes, etc.; and
  4. Enabling, supporting initiatives led by other actors through information and resource provision and partnerships”

Appendix 2: Policy typology

(from NATURVATION project)

Policy typology Description Examples
Regulatory (administrative, command-and-control) Mandatory fulfillment of certain requirements by targeted actors Legislations, regulations, laws, directives, etc.
Economic (financial, market-based) Financial (dis)incentives to trigger change by providing (new) favourable (or unfavourable) economic conditions for targeted actors Positive incentive include subsidies, soft loans, tax allowance and procurments. Negative incentives are taxes, fees and charges.
Informative (educational) They aim at providing information or knowledge to target actors in order to increase awareness and support informed decision-making accomplish or prevent social change Information and awareness raising campaigns, informative leaflets, advertisements in different media.
Voluntary Commitment and/or actions beyond legal requirements, undertaken by private actors and/or non-governmental organisations. Voluntary actions and agreements.


test tableau

  1. Background to this question: Our four main criteria for selecting particular governance interventions and develop rich descriptions of them were: A) The intervention has been studied in a specific urban context (e.g. city), B) this context is located in Europe (and, preferably, the study was EU-funded), C) the intervention considers to a large extent sustainability AND justice (at least implicitly), and D) it is well-documented, ideally including assumptions or even critical reflections on enablers and barriers to implementation and on transferability (i.e. ‘de-contextualizability’). Additionally, we aimed at a diverse portfolio of domains (see Q2.) and governance modes (see Q5): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nCPcUd-COIQ1MsBjir20_F1CBbnSu6HqKH9nNLshiVQ/edit?usp=sharing.
  2. Foodsharing.de Wiki. Last view on 24/01/20:https://wiki.foodsharing.de/Kontext_und_Selbstverst%C3%A4ndnis
  3. Actor types according to TRANSIT’s Critical Turning Point Database, http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/about-ctps-in-tsi-processes.
  4. If easily possible mention sources for your association of roles.
  5. Website of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Last view on 24/01/20 https://www.bmel.de/EN/Food/Safe-Food/safe-food_node.html.
  6. Foodsharing.de Wiki. Last view on 24/01/20: https://wiki.foodsharing.de/Fair-Teiler_und_Abgabestellen.
  7. Foodsharing.de Wiki .Last view on24/01/20: https://wiki.foodsharing.de/Foodsharing_e.V._und_dessen_Vorstand.
  8. Foodsharing.de Wiki. Last view on24/01/20: https://wiki.foodsharing.de/Umgang_mit_Geld_bei_foodsharing.
  9. Foodsharing.de Wiki. Last view on 04/02/20: https://wiki.foodsharing.de/Kontext_und_Selbstverst%C3%A4ndnis.
  10. Last view on 04/02/20: https://www.dw.com/en/food-sharing-initiative-battles-berlin-authorities-over-closed-community-fridges/a-19042114 .
  11. Deliverable 7.1 Synthesis Report on results from Monitoring and Evaluation (p.14) : http://www.foodlinkscommunity.net/fileadmin/documents_organicresearch/foodlinks/publications/karner-etal-d-7-1.pdf .
  12. http://www.foodlinkscommunity.net/fileadmin/documents_organicresearch/foodlinks/publications/karner-etal-d-7-1.pdf .
  13. Yunity website. Last view on 26/06/20: https://yunity.org/en.
  14. Sharecity website. Last view on 04/02/20: https://sharecity.ie/getting-started-with-the-share-it-toolkit/.
  15. Feel free to include learning that has been made available through EU project documentation, intervention initiatives, or other channels. In addition to the forms in which the learning process has been shared with others, please indicate whether the learning process that’s being shared has been recorded in a self-critical/reflexive way.
  16. Foodsharing website. Fair-Teiler-Problem in Berlin. Last view on 26/06/20: https://wiki.foodsharing.de/Fair-Teiler_und_Abgabestellen.
  17. Olio website. Last view on 26/06/20: https://olioex.com/.
  18. Sharecity database. Last view on 26/06/20: https://sharecity.ie/research/sharecity100-database/.