David is a real Viennese bicycle celebrity. Already when I meet him and his cargo bike in the 19th district, we are greeted friendly by the neighbours at every corner. The same goes on all day long. The people on the street, other cyclists and shop owners are happy to see the Robin Foods crew in action.
On my last day in Vienna I am invited to come along to save leftover food. Our tour takes us from the 19th to Florisdorf at the city border. There is the central of the social market Food Point. In the backyard, everything is already prepared for us. There are numerous trolleys with expired but still edible groceries, pastries and yoghurts. What we do not take with us ends up in the garbage.
Up to 280 kilos of food fit – safely packed in banana crates – on one cargo bike. Compared to about 5 tons of food that this market alone has to throw away every week, this is only a small amount.
But these foods have already come a long way. Many of them were originally on the shelves of premium supermarkets and discounters. Some products carry a discount label. So they were already offered to customers at a lower price to avoid waste.
What the normal supermarkets and wholesale market stalls could not sell, ends up in the social market. Here, people with low incomes can become members of the umbrella organisation and thus obtain cheap food. In addition to the leftover products of the large food chains, fresh fruit and vegetables are also bought from time to time.
But with the mass of offered food, also the storage limits of the small social market chain with 5 branches in Vienna are exhausted at some point. Then the food rescuers come into play.
Our task now is to look through the sorted out food and check what of it is still edible. Spoiler: almost everything, except a few snacks and overlayed fruits and vegetables.
My heart bleeds especially at the sight of half a pallet of avocados, which are unfortunately already completely brown, but half a week ago were certainly very tasty. They end up in the bin – completely.
On this day we can save about 300kg of food. Normally these are brought to 2 or 3 distribution stations on a saturday. Since we are only a small group of 4 people and the sun is burning, we only manage one.
There are already some people waiting for us. Especially older ladies catch my eye, happily filling their shopping trolleys. Groceries and dairy products are popular. With some things one wonders why they were sorted out at all. My lunch consists of strawberry buttermilk, falafel with natural yoghurt and lentil salad. Everything saved, everything above best before date, everything delicious.
In the end, what remains is mainly bread – and fresh cucumbers. We bring the remaining boxes to the ECO UFU. In this case, ECO stands for Environmental Conciousness Organisation. The self renovated shop in the cycle street in the 16th district is the headquarters of the food rescuers and shall also become a centre for sustainability.
Between the parking spaces in front of the door, people are already busy gardening. The activists were even able to steal four parking spaces from motorists. There they are building a green oasis. The rescued cucumbers will be pickled to make them last even longer.
For me, a day full of learnings ends with an algae lemonade and many questions. Do we really have to produce so much food? Can’t supermarkets store and label fruit and vegetables better? And why do so many buyers and legislators still base their decisions on the sell-by date so that everything else is sorted out?
If you now would like to ride a cargo (e-)bike in vienna and save food: simply contact Robin Foods. The group can rent the bikes free of charge. But they would be very happy about more wo/men power!