Foodsharing Mainz hosts community brunches every Saturday for more than three years now and Kristijan Miklobusec kindly shared their experiences, so that other groups can benefit from them.
Intro: Why do we need community building?
When a community grows it holds the risk of developing anonymity. The individual member can get lost in the crowd more easily and it becomes difficult to tell who is especially motivated and enthusiastic. But the community depends on its individual member’s energy, skill and network and the expansion of said networks are effected through regular casual meet-ups in neutral locations.
We think it is of utmost importance to put emphasis on the fact that foodsharing is more than just picking up food from stores. Foodsavers should understand the significance of their action and realize, that the whole complex topic of how food waste in Germany does affect poverty and hunger in different parts of the world, instead of just seeing the pick-ups as cost-efficient alternatives to buying the food they need. This way we not only make sure that our foodsavers are motivated, but we can also avoid too many of them just picking up food for themselves without the intent to distribute bigger amounts, which they can’t eat with their own friends and family.
To reach this we need experienced long-term foodsavers and newbies to meet and mingle. The philosophy of the group can be transferred, ideas can be exchanged and potential misunderstandings can be resolved before they become problems. Real life contact instead of solely written communication enhances the feeling of really being part of a group on all sides and a sense of responsibility and belonging can be developed. In the end people who joined together because of a common goal or interest can become friends, and groups of friends can work together much more smoothly than groups of strangers. And it’s much more fun as well!
Main section: How to hold a foodsharing brunch
This article is structured like a FAQ, so simply jump to the question that interests you the most, if you don’t want to read through everything right now.
Where do you hold the brunch?
We use a room in an alternative self-organized space. It is located central near the train station and we can use it for free. There is space for around 20-30 people, there is a kitchen with a stove and a fridge.
What are your minimal requirements for the brunch?
That it takes place at all.
The most important thing is that somebody shows up, everything else is a plus. We want to avoid dependencies or notions of requirements. We also don’t want the hosts of the event to feel under pressure to acquire as much food as possible.
How do you organize the brunch?
There is a list of tasks:
- Create the online event on facebook and foodsharing
- Get the key
- Unlock the door
- Tidy up
- Lock the door
We have created a store on the foodsharing.de website called “Foodsharing Brunch”, with three pick-up slots. The first one is for getting the key, the second one for unlocking the door and the third one for locking the door, since these are the most important tasks, which definitely need to be carried out. The team chat and the pinboard are used for discussion. (Click here if you want to read my guide on how to use Karrot to organize such events.)
Do you reserve food from pick-ups for the brunch?
No. It is left to those who come to bring food.
This is to avoid pressure on the organizers (“You didn’t bring anything”, “Why is there nothing today”). On the other hand we want to encourage the engagement of everybody. If you think that something is missing it is also your responsibility to bring it.
Do you distribute food at the brunch?
Yes, we distribute food.
Nobody has to stay and eat, we leave it to the people whether they want to come and stay a bit or just pass by and pick something up.
When do you hold the brunch?
Every Saturday from 11:00 to 14:00
How long does it actually take (with preparation and tidying up)?
It has become a habit to be there 30 minutes earlier. Sometimes it also takes longer, but we aim to be finished at 14:30/15:00 at the latest.
What needs to be prepared beforehand?
- If the room isn’t clean, we mop it.
- If there is food to be distributed, we set it up.
- We put out the plates and cups.
- Sometimes we crisp up bread rolls.
- If there is food to be prepared and someone likes to do it, we do that (like fruit salad or salad).
- We make coffee and tea.
Is your brunch free for everyone?
The food is from foodsharing and it is a general rule that everything is distributed for free, also when it is brought from home.
People can bring their own drinks. If we use drinks from the „room“, this has nothing to do with foodsharing and people donate for that. This is also handled flexibly though.
We don’t advertise neither the room and nor the drinks.
How many people are actively involved? Does it happen that one person is stuck with all the work?
In the beginning there was one person who got the project running. After this it was handled with the motto: “If the group wants the event to happen, there have to be more people who participate”. In the end there is now a person, who worked a lot for keeping the event stably occurring and conveyed the importance of this.
It works best as a team. You can ask: “Who will take care of the room? Who will bring food?” and stay consequent, even if something is missing. That’s the hardest thing, because it means that sometimes there are things missing…
By now there are around ten people involved.
What other benefits are there?
You can talk about foodsharing subjects casually in passing. It promotes exchange and communication.
How do you promote the event?
Because the brunch has become a regular event we put the information on a flyer. We create an event on facebook and most of the time also on foodsharing.de – there can also be a food basket with the information about the event.
What kinds of people come to the brunch?
All kinds of people: young and old ones, mothers with their children, seniors, foodsavers as well as foodsharers. Simply people. We rarely know beforehand who will show up. Who comes is there.
How do you plan the needed amounts of food?
We don’t. We share what is there.
If we see that there will be a lot on one day we communicate it online before the event starts. During the brunch we post pictures in the facebook group. Up until now, 95 percent of the time everything got taken.
What do you do with leftovers?
Every visitor takes something. Most of the time there is not much left. Sometimes there is a „kitchen for all“ event in the evening at the space and they can make use of some food as well.
How do you handle greedy persons?
We only had one extreme example of this. You just have to point out that everything is shared between everybody and explain the bigger idea. We also intervene and tell them they have taken enough. Expelling the person from the event would be the last resort and we haven’t done that yet. It also doesn’t matter if the person is the first one there. We want that the people who come later also get something from what’s there.
Which amounts do you need for approx. 20 people?
We do not plan with numbers so I can’t answer this question.
20-30 bread rolls can be enough though, or 5-6 breads with some spreads.
Does everybody contribute? Does it really work?
Everyone is invited to do and bring what they can. If people find something in their cupboard at home that can be used for the foodsharing brunch, they can bring it. There are also foodsavers who bring food. So yes, it really works…
How do you handle people, who misbehave?
We explain the idea behind the brunch and our rules. If people don’t comply they can be expelled from the room.
Do you also distribute IDs to new foodsavers during the brunch?
Yes, sometimes we give out the IDs at the brunch. It is up to the person giving them out.
Do a lot of new foodsavers show up?
We offer every new person to use this as an opportunity to get in contact with the community and that they can also bring their friends.
Did people decide to become foodsavers after visiting the brunch?
Yes. There are people who like the atmosphere and who decided to become foodsavers after talking to the active people. We are also happy about foodsharers who just come back to eat.
Did it happen that there hasn’t been any food at all at some point?
One time we didn’t create an event and 5 people showed up anyway by habit. We had two breads. That was completely fine.
What kind of problems did you encounter?
We had exactly two problems so far:
A mentally ill homeless person. We were unable to cope with supporting them in the end. We are no trained therapists, social workers or psychologists. Everyone has individual boundaries in their own social competence. These boundaries were reached so that we could not allow this person to participate further, unfortunately. We talked about this with the owners of the rooms.
There was also a very greedy person. This person continuously took disproportionate amounts of the food. We first tried to keep the situation open and convey the idea of the brunch. We also offered to come at the end when it is no problem to take everything. We are still observing how this develops at the moment while pointing out the boundaries so that others also get their fair share.