Created 10 May 2023
Food Reformers makes Kolding greener
We had a conversation with Iben Østergaard Fog, the founder of the volunteer organization Food Reformers. The organization works to raise awareness, stimulate debate, and foster community engagement around food waste, green responsibility, and overconsumption.
Where does your interest in food waste come from?
My interest in food waste stems from a combination of various factors. I have been raised to think about others, the environment, and to reflect on and discuss global and societal issues. This also means that food and its origins have always been a significant part of my life, and from a young age, I made the ethical decision to become a vegetarian.
My upbringing also played a role in my involvement in humanitarian and political student organizations since my teenage years. I was introduced to the concept of food waste when I was around 12-13 years old. It was when a friend showed me a huge container filled with surplus food that was just going to be thrown away. Back then, food waste wasn't something that received much attention, but it made a big impression on me, and it's an image that has stayed with me ever since.
As I grew older, I witnessed firsthand the inequality during a trip to India, which certainly sparked a lot of thoughts and reflections. After my journey, when I moved to Copenhagen to study medicine, I was introduced to the concept of Dumpster Diving, which involves collecting discarded food, and once again, I saw the enormous amounts of food being thrown away every day. The abundance I witnessed was a stark contrast to what I had experienced while traveling, and I became more and more aware of avoiding food waste myself. I also became part of a food community that purchases locally produced vegetables.
I began sharing the concept of Dumpster Diving with others, but it wasn't until I started collaborating with a food waste organization in Copenhagen through the student organization I was a member of that I saw how actively raising awareness about food waste could make a difference.
Why did you start Food Reformers?
In 2018, I moved to Kolding to begin my master's program in IT Product Design. As a newcomer to the city, I didn't know where or how to find people with similar interests as me, so I started looking for an organization working on food waste. However, aside from an organization that distributes food to the socially disadvantaged, I couldn't find any.
I had an idea of creating something that could raise awareness about food waste while also having a social aspect. Fortunately, many of my fellow students shared my interest in food waste, but I also wanted to be part of a community that extended beyond the university. That's when the idea for Food Reformers was born.
How did you get started?
I presented my idea to a teacher who connected me with Svetlana Petrova, who was already working in a similar field. Together, we developed the foundation for Food Reformers. I also utilized various methods from my studies to kickstart the organization.
The concept was to gather a group of volunteers and together we would collect surplus food from local supermarkets, including some dumpster diving. We used all the food we collected to prepare a communal dinner at Tobbers, a café here in Kolding. Torben, the owner of Tobbers, not only provided the space but also helped with food preparation. We invited anyone who was interested to join us for a free community meal at the café, and throughout the evening, there were small lectures focusing on food waste. The event was a great success, and we had a full house. The overwhelming interest also means that to this day, we have many individuals and organizations reaching out to us.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the support and backing we have received in starting Food Reformers here in Kolding. I have previously been involved in volunteering in Copenhagen, and I must say it required much more effort compared to Kolding.
I am constantly learning new things about food waste and, most importantly, about how to effectively communicate our message so that more people become aware of this issue. The dream is to reduce the enormous amounts of food that end up in the trash, and I believe we need to examine how we can contribute to changing people's behavior and their perception of food waste.
How do you become a part of Food Reformers?
We hold monthly meetings for all volunteers, where we also cook together. I really want to meet with all the new volunteers, so I can get a sense of what they would like to contribute to the organization. Some may simply want to be part of the community, while others may have a concept or design workshop they want to try out. We understand that many of our volunteers are students and have busy schedules with their studies, so we take that into account. We focus on making it fun to be part of the organization; it should not feel like a burdensome duty. Participation is free, so anyone can join.
Additionally, we host Dumpster Dinners every other month, where we provide free communal meals using the ingredients we have collected. Everyone is welcome to attend these dinners, even if they are not volunteers in the organization. Working and interacting with different people is a great learning experience, and it's just amazing. The people involved in the organization are incredibly talented, and personally, I have gained so much from being part of Food Reformers.
Guide to Dumpster Diving
Every day, a lot of food from supermarkets ends up in the trash. With dumpster diving, you can help save some of the food that would otherwise go to waste. Here, Kontur has created a small guide for those who are interested in trying dumpster diving.
Dumpster diving is legal in places where the dumpsters are not locked or placed behind a locked fence. Therefore, find a supermarket where the dumpsters are not locked. However, it's still important to remember that some store owners don't appreciate dumpster divers, so remember to respect the employees and owners.
Check the dates and quality of the food items you find. Remember to pay special attention to meat and dairy products.
Remember to clean up after yourself, so the area looks tidy when you leave.
Wash and quality-check the food when you get home.