Wefood is much more than just a grocery selling expired food

wefood sign
CC BY 2.0 Wefood/ Lloyd Alter

It's a great concept: not only did you get a bargain, but your money goes to a good cause.

TreeHugger has covered Copenhagen's WeFood before. The grocery store serves poor families, students and people that Katherine described in an earlier post as “politically-minded individuals who believe strongly in the importance of not allowing perfectly good food to go to waste.” But it is much more than that.

Wefood frontWefood/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Melissa covered it with a headline which I think misses the essence, Denmark's newest grocer only sells unloved food. What's not to love about a bargain? And in fact, there is lots of food that anyone would love here.

toothpasteWefood/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Katherine followed up with Denmark now has a second grocery store selling expired food, but that's not quite right either; it's not all expired. Some is seasonal (Christmas cakes in January) and some is simply serious overstock. Toothpaste, anyone? But Melissa summed it up:

They are decidedly not a normal retailer. In fact, they are a non-profit run by volunteers; their profits go to help anti-poverty initiatives around the world. They collect surplus goods – from bread and produce to dairy and other groceries – and sell them 30 to 50 percent cheaper than regular supermarkets.

inside storeWefood/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

It collaborates with big and small groceries, picking up vegetables twice a week, but also has relationships with private suppliers and wholesalers and even small farmers who cannot sell all their produce or eggs.

There are only two employees and a hundred volunteers running the two stores, with a turnover of about a million Danish Kroners (US$ 160,000). Volunteers, who are also food tasters, have to take a hygiene course to be able to determine if the fresh food is good to eat.

Under the laws that changed in 2014, it became legal to sell expired food. Supermarkets could do this themselves, but tend not to want to undercut their own prices, so Wefood is supported by the established retail stores. But the stuff that is donated is a decidedly odd mix, depending what the retailers were trying to get rid of.

tired vegetablesWefood/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

On the day I visited, the fresh vegetables and fruits were in short supply and visibly tired.

Fish oilWefood/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

But if you were looking for Norwegian fish oil supplements, there was enough for all of Denmark.

erasersWefood/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

And they will never, never run out of Angry Birds erasers.

olive oilWefood/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

It’s probably a bit of fun, showing up to see what bizarre bargains are there this week. The olive oil was a great bargain; a writer from London wanted to take a case back home. The mix of products clearly goes beyond the needs of starving students but becomes an adventure, a sort of foodie treasure hunt.

mint sauceWefood/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

And unlike the discount stores in North America, all the sales revenue here go to support the work of the NGO, DanChuchAid, which include “providing emergency aid and social protection schemes as well as projects promoting agro-ecological production.” So, enjoy your mint sauce and olive oil; not only did you get a bargain, but your money goes to a good cause.

More at WeFood.

Lloyd Alter was in Copenhagen as a guest of INDEX: Design to Improve Life and Wonderful Copenhagen.

Tags: Copenhagen | Food Safety

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