The Berliner Tafel, a charity that gathers food donations for individuals in need, turns 25 this month. The core concept is simple: unsold or unsellable food in good condition is collected by volunteers and distributed via weekly food banks or distribution to other social organizations. It’s “the old Robin Hood principle, and we are on the legal side,” jokes Tafel founder Sabine Werth.
Werth was inspired to start the Tafel when she saw an article about City Harvest New York, and their model – volunteers collecting surplus food from businesses and bringing it to the needy – struck Werth as a great idea for Berlin. Today, the group distributes food to 125,000 people in Berlin each month, and their example has inspired similar projects in other cities: there are 934 other Tafel organizations in Germany alone, plus five in Austria and 11 in Switzerland.
Unfortunately, Werth has noted an increase in the number of needy residents in Berlin. “Many, many families are homeless today, and that’s a real shame for the city and the whole country. We are one of the richest countries in the whole world… we have a good system on one hand, but on the other hand, it’s not working anymore. I think the politicians should do something, but in the meantime, I do something as well.”
Photo courtesy Berliner Tafel e.V.