Reducing food waste

The picture shows a bunch of radishes.

To further reduce food waste by facilitating a needs-based distribution of food donations to food banks is the goal of a new project.

27.06.2019 · Economics, Social Sciences, Spatial Research · ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research · HP-Topnews · Projects

To further reduce the quantity of food wasted in Germany by facilitating a needs-based distribution of food donations to food banks is the goal of a project of the Research Group “Market Design” at the ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim. To this end, the ZEW Research Group is helping to develop a digital platform to improve the network between food banks, wholesalers and food producers.

State Secretary Dr. Hermann Onko Aeikens (second from left) presenting the funding certificate for the project “Tafel macht Zukunft – gemeinsam digital” to Evelin Schulz from the training academy of Tafel Deutschland, ZEW economist Professor Thilo Klein (second from right) and Jochen Brühl from Tafel Deutschland.

The project “Tafel macht Zukunft – gemeinsam digital” (“Tafel Shapes the Future – Together Digital”) is carried out jointly by ZEW, the German food aid organisation Tafel Deutschland e.V and the Bildungsakademie des Bundesverbandes Deutsche Tafel gGmbH, an associated training academy, and funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture with a total of 1.5 million euros over a period of three years.

The platform, which serves as an interface between donors and food banks, will be tested with selected food banks and supermarkets across Germany. The goal of reducing food waste is to be achieved by better matching food supply and demand and by optimising the planning of the transport route, which will be made possible by the digital platform. The ZEW Research Group “Market Design” provides scientific support for the project.

Professor Thilo Klein, researcher in the ZEW Research Group and project leader at ZEW, summarises the role of market design in this digitalisation project as follows: “Food producers and wholesalers make a valuable contribution towards preventing food waste through their donations. These large donations, however, make up only a fraction of total donations and are distributed without knowing how much has been donated by local bakeries and supermarkets. As a result, the actual needs of the individual food banks are not sufficiently taken into account. This new method of distributing food donations that we aim to develop will provide food banks with a simple tool to better express their needs, which in turn will enable them to save more food from being wasted. This is an example of how digital platforms can be used to improve and individualise markets, which is the goal of innovative market design.”

Jochen Brühl, chairman of Tafel Deutschland e.V., explains: “Together with our partners, we aim to optimise food distribution in the future and to increase the amount of food saved by food banks through digital processes. To this end, it is also our objective to encourage new donor associations to participate in the network in addition to our existing partnerships. We see it as a great opportunity to use technological progress to our advantage in order to simplify processes.”

Improving the coordination between donors and recipients

Almost all supermarkets, discounters and wholesalers in Germany donate food to food banks. The project “Tafel macht Zukunft – gemeinsam digital“ is supported by the partners Aldi Nord, Aldi Süd, Edeka, Kaufland, LIDL, Mercedes-Benz, Metro, Netto Marken-Discount, Penny and Rewe.

Julia Klöckner, Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture, says: “Providing aid that directly benefits people in need – this is what food banks stand for. With the help of voluntary workers, food banks have made a great contribution to saving and distributing valuable food in Germany. What, for instance, France has achieved by making it a legal requirement for supermarkets of a certain size to donate food, has long been common practice in Germany without such a law – and with far greater success. This is due to the good collaboration between traders and food banks, which is now being further improved thanks to the digitalisation of the distribution system. The goal is to develop a digital platform that enables the distribution of food to local food banks and to improve the network between donor associations and recipients. As part of my National Strategy for Food Waste Reduction, we as the Ministry for Food and Agriculture are supporting this project with 1.5 million euros. This is a decisive step towards preventing even more food from being wasted in the future and, above all, distributing it in a targeted and needs-oriented manner.”

The objective of the Ministry’s National Strategy for Food Waste Reduction is to halve the amount of food waste in Germany by 2030 by implementing measures along the entire food chain. 60,000 volunteers are already distributing 264,000 tons of donated food to 1.5 million people in need. Thanks to this joint project of ZEW, Tafel Deutschland and the training academy of Tafel Deutschland, it will be possible in future to prevent even more food from being thrown away and to distribute in a needs-oriented way.

More information and contact

www.zew.de