New Nordic study: Food banks have a big unused potential to minimize food waste

06.02.15 | News
United Against Food Waste Nordic photo competition
New study from the Nordic Council of Ministers shows that more than 3 million meals are served from food banks every year based on food that otherwise would have been wasted.

A new Nordic study financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers through the Nordic Green Growth programme has shown that 3 million meals based on surplus food were served in the Nordic countries in 2013, although there are only 3 “official” food banks in the region.

The study also documents the importance of local redistribution of food directly from retailers and food producers to charity organisations.  Whereas the three food banks served about 1,6 million meals, it is estimated that direct redistribution contributed with at least 2-3 times as much.  

Redistribution of food is a good example of social innovation, where available resources are used more effectively with both environmental and social benefits, according to the report:  Food Redistribution in the Nordic Region - Experiences and results from a pilot study.

First study done

This is the first Nordic study on food redistribution and one of very few systematic studies of food redistribution in Europe.  National pilot studies have been done in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, including both food banks and local redistribution.  

In Europe there are 257 registered food banks that connect companies that have surplus food with charity organisations that use surplus food in serving meals to people in need Food banks are classified as food business operators in a legal context, and must fulfil all requirements according to food safety rules and regulatory measures harmonized at an EU level.  The new study gives an overview of how regulations are practiced in the Nordic countries with regard to food redistribution.  

Big potential

Food redistribution has a big underutilized potential in all Nordic countries, and a follow up project under the Nordic Council of Ministers will look at this. The project will involve the food banks directly together with food safety authorities and research institutes.  

This phase II project will focus on organisational models, development of quality systems and systems for tracing and registration of food being redistributed, as well as how regulations are practiced in each country to make redistribution safe and effective.

The project on food waste is part of the Nordic Prime Ministers' Green Growth Initiative, looking at ways to cooperate across the Nordic countries in a number of areas to strenghten a sustainable development and a green economy in the Nordic region.


Contact persons for the Nordic study:

Professor Ole Jørgen Hanssen, Østfoldforskning (Project manager Redistribution study): +47 90727977;
Ingela Dahlin, Livsmedelsverket i Sverige, Project coordinator for the Nordic food waste projects:

National contacts

Finland:  Kirsi Silvennoinen, LUKE,  + 358 29 5326 540,

Sweden:  Åsa Stenmarck, IVL,+46 8 598 56 366 ,

Denmark: Mads Werge, Plan&Miljø,  +45 46 76 24 08,

Norway:  Ole Jørgen Hanssen, Østfoldforskning, +47 90727977,

Link to the report for downloading: