Sasha is a mother and a vegan from St. Petersburg, who runs a food rescue project called food sharing. She was the first to launch this movement in Russia. Today, the VKontakte community unites more than 80,000 like-minded people.
Sasha, what led you to the project and sustainable practices?
SL: A lot of food leftovers at home. And often relatives tried to give me their unwanted food, especially when I moved and started living alone. As often happens, if you have something, and you don’t want to throw it away, then you try to give this junk to all your friends and relatives. It was always a pity to throw out food and so on. Although it was not necessary to me, I was annoyed. It always seemed strange with food, that someone is homeless without food, and someone throws food away.
I remember that I worked in a kindergarten, I wanted to go to work as a child psychologist and I had to gain experience... And there was always a lot of food after the working day, not that the children did not eat, but because they always cooked more than necessary. And it was straight whole loaves of bread there... that is, unpacked. At first I took some fish for my cats, then I took bread home. My husband and I lived together, and, of course, we never eat a whole loaf in a day. I tried to give this bread to the homeless. And it was always so embarrassing, because these homeless people always had to be looked for. In general, I had such a specific experience that I didn’t just sit and reason about who to give food to, but just went 10 times to give it to the homeless. And then a few years later, I remember that I found out that there is a food sharing group in Germany. It wasn't that kind of insight. It was just the answer to my many questions about what to do with this food. And then a few years later, when there were a lot of groups on VK where they gave away things, I thought, why not try giving away food, and that's how it all started.
Products for free. Photo: https://vk.com/sharingfood
What other sustainable practices do you have in your life besides saving and sharing food?
SL: I think that if a person is an organiser of a movement, for example, Foodsharing or Separate collection, this does not mean that they are now environmentally friendly with everything. That is, I know that the guys from the separate collection eat meat, which is absolutely unecological, but I, on the contrary, do not engage in separate collection. That is, I believe that a person cannot write poetry, and solve mathematical theorems and swim in 10 styles. It seems to me that everyone chooses a path close to them. For example, I am a vegan, it seems to me that it is environmentally friendly. Plus, I try to be environmentally friendly with food, not to throw it away, try not to buy too much. Well, I like to dress in second hand. It's also eco-friendly, plus there are things that are different from the things in the store. For example, if there is a trend that now everyone wears flared trousers, then you will not find other things in the store. Well ... Yes, what else about this.
I also like the idea of internal environmental friendliness, so that the family has environmentally friendly relationships. Now I have taken up home improvement from the point of view of moral ecology, so that there is nothing superfluous at home, so as not to overload the space. Listening to the body is also eco-friendly.
Well, from the outside: it's about food and about veganism. The rest is internal thoughts and actions.
In general, if we talk about an eco-friendly lifestyle, tell me, is it difficult now to be eco-friendly and practice a sustainable lifestyle in St. Petersburg?
SL: Well, I think that for a beginner who wants to be eco-friendly, it will be quite easy. For example, they may decide to buy non-chemical household goods. They will go to the nearest store and buy a synergist-detergent there, which is kind of eco-friendly, and like “Wow, how cool!” And the person is happy. It seems to me that we have every opportunity in our city to start moving in ecological direction, but at the same time not to go to the other end of the city to buy an environmentally friendly product, that is affordable. But people who have been in this topic for a long time, they seem to understand that, in principle, buying in mass markets is no longer environmentally friendly ... walking to Pyaterochka with a shopping bag is also already non-environmental. That is, it is better to support local producers, go to local markets, buy Russian tomatoes, and buy dishwashing detergent from mustard and soda from some guys on social networks, and with soda now there are problems with soda mountains, where soda is mined. That is, now it is also not environmentally friendly ... That is, if you want to really, 100%, then it's hard. On the other hand, it seems to me that the 100% , is impossible. Especially if you live in the city. It will just be some kind of neurosis if you try... It is important to determine for yourself the area that is important to you, try to stick to it and try, but do not get discouraged, if you forgot your shopping bag, this does not mean that you should not buy groceries home for dinner.
Free lunches from Food Without Borders & Triglinki. Ph: https://vk.com/edabezgranic_foodsharing
Coming back to the food-sharing movement, what do you think is the reason why the movement has become so big?
SL: It's simple: food is given away for free. Food, like air, is something without which a person cannot live. This is the first need, and it is given free of charge. I think that's why it's so popular. When I created the group, many people wrote that it would be better to starve than to ask someone for food, that people in Russia are so proud and will not do this ... And now it is clear that everyone is calmly taking it. Everyone hides behind a curtain that everything is fine in our country, and then it turns out that food is needed, NEEDED, VERY NEEDED! That is, it changed everything very dramatically when people realised that they were not the only ones who were ready to accept food, that there were many of them who could not buy it. And there shouldn't be any shame. When you take food, no one laughs at you. And I just got into a wave of environmental friendliness. The project should not be charitable, but ecological. We never said that we help people in difficult situations. When people took food, they never felt like begging, which is kind of embarrassing for them. That is, they came, took it and that's it. No one treates the person as some kind of unfortunate. On the contrary, a person saves what is simply thrown away. Roughly speaking, the production of a loaf of bread requires natural resources, the strength of people, technical resources. A lot is spent on one loaf to just throw it away.
Please tell us about the group. What had to be done to make the group work, to make the exchange work?
SL: I didn't use any special pieces. In fact, it was just necessary for people to know about the project, that's all. Well, of course, some rules were introduced there. For example, not to give away something like rotten meat. I've never had experience leading groups, but it turned out not to be so difficult.
Probably three months later, I became friends with one girl who wanted to help. Helpers came about, and more partners appeared. Well, usually they were active members of the group, you offer them to do what they already do, only officially. only a few times have we had to directly write an announcement that we are looking for assistants.
In addition to the communication platform, does the movement do anything else? What promotions or events do you run?
SL: Well, before the coronavirus, we often participated in events, environmental or vegan. Well, also, in fact, I must say that when the project was small, no one knew about it, it was interesting. And now, when everyone already knows about it, it’s as if people are not very interested in coming up to us at festivals to listen to some lectures, and we are no longer very interested to go, because these eco-events, there are always the same people that go there, no one new at all. Hearing about food sharing all the time is kind of stupid. Therefore, I believe that we have fulfilled our popularizing function and are now going to scale up so that more people and institutions join, but we have already received such an audience of environmentally friendly people. They already know about us, there is nothing to catch, let's put it this way.
What are your future plans for the project?
SL: Now I see that the main goal of development is scaling. There are always a lot of people who throw away food. That is, I want my project to become like Avito. So that everyone knows it, and that they sell their things there. For poor people to sell their sweaters for 10 rubles, and for the rich to sell their yachts for millions of dollars. Our goal is also such that some private bakery could give one bun there, and a supermarket could give millions of tons of food. And it’s the same with people: it doesn’t matter how wealthy a person is, the main thing is that they can use it.
And how many partners do you have now and are there charitable organizations among them?
SL: Well, now there are about 100 of those who survived during the coronavirus. Some had to close and some started operating in a different format. We are not very active with foundations and charitable organizations, because all these organizations are legally registered, and they accept donations from various institutions that need to formalize this as well. We still have a slightly different target audience. Of course, we work with those who find it difficult to legally prove their poverty: for example, if a husband and wife have lost their jobs, then no legal fund will help them. And here they can come once and take their food. Well, the funds, they always ask what we will bring and when, but we have everything, like a roulette wheel, today one thing, tomorrow another.
On one day they can give 100 kg of bread, and on the second day a small bag per person, and the funds have to calculate all this ... If there are 60 wards, then they need to know that they will feed them dinner. That is, if we have a volunteer who is ready to cook on a permanent basis, then we send him to certain families so that he can help them consistently. This format might work.
You mentioned that many closed during covid, the number of partners decreased in general. Did covid affect some of your practices of the organization as a whole?
SL: Well, not much. Some partners closed, but on the other hand, one closes, and a new one opens. It very often happens that bakeries that have been cooperating with us for a long time gradually stop doing this. If earlier they gave away 40 kg of bread a day, now they are beginning to realize that this is 40 kg a day ... And they give less and less, it comes to the point that they give 2 kg a day, and then they just distribute it to their employees. Our volunteers are sad when this happens. But on the other hand, we have fulfilled our ideological goal, one might say.
In general, it was interesting with covid, especially during the acute stage, that some people took and simply distributed food to someone who was having a hard time. I mean, it was nice to see people just helping each other.
They simply wrote through the VK wall, for example: “I bought 10 sets of food ...” Well, in principle, this sometimes happens even now. A person appears who says that they will do good deed and no one will stop them. But during the coronavirus, there were a lot of such people. And there were many who wrote that they had absolutely nothing to eat and that they did not know what to do. This is also an indicator of real life. We have a thread about a year ago, if you scroll through. It's called "Feed". There it will be seen that many people write and how it was, that many people were left unprotected without food and shelter.