Here we go again with a fresh new interview! This time we got to know Soham Wrick Datta and the rest of the team at Food Saving Lund! FSL is a no-profit organization that works restlessly to tackle the burning issue of food waste, by – of course – saving food but also spreading awareness through workshops and sustainability-related events!

1. Who is Soham Wrick Datta? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m Soham Wrick Datta: Karrot Admin, New Member Trainer & External Relations of FSL – With a passion for Clinical Research and bridging the gap between medical research and climate change, I completed my Ph.D. in Oncology and a Master’s in Immunology, Neuromuscular Diseases & Global Health. We run Food Saving Lund as an organization that saves food, shares it among the community and raises awareness among the citizens towards the devastating effects of food waste and ways to reduce food waste.

The rest of the team!

Maria-Madalina Aldea: Treasurer of FSL – As a social sciences student I have always been interested in sustainable initiatives. At FSL I have the chance to work along a great team of people with different perspectives to create a social impact by tackling food waste.

Aurelie Pollak: Secretary of FSL – I am a student in innovation and sustainable development with a strong interest in global challenges related to food security and food waste. Being involved in FSL is a way for me to act and show that we can work together for a more sustainable world.

Isabella Chin: Social Media & Marketing of FSL – After graduating from my business administration Master’s programme at Lund University, I decided to volunteer at FSL which I have

already heard about a lot during my studies. Now, I‘m working at a restaurant and contributing to FSL‘s marketing activities.

Valerie Lobatonv: Pickup Coordinator & New Pick-up Partnerships of FSL – I am currently in the Master’s programme of Innovation and Sustainable Development and my interest has always been to improve the way in which we function as a society by transforming old paradigms.  I joined FSL because it is an organization that, through the community’s collaborative effort, seeks to change the existing preconceptions on food consumption and waste to make our way of living more sustainable.

2. How did you come up with the idea of Food Saving Lund? And how does it work?

We began as a group of volunteers in the town of Lund in the south of Sweden who try to reduce food waste by joining forces with various shops to pick up food that would otherwise be thrown away and distribute it among the community or store it in food banks.

We use our platform: Karrot to register new members who can gain access to our pickup overview and sign up for pickups in various stores including bakeries and fresh food markets. Once they have picked up the food, they share it among the community and take it to our 3 designated food banks in the town where a lot of people get access to that food for free.

3. What is the difference between Food Saving Lund and other widespread apps fighting food waste – for example, “Too Good To Go”? Why should people choose to get involved with you?

We are non-profit, completely voluntary and approach. We give importance to community personal and organize a lot of community and spread awareness at the grassroots level. We have a bottom-up building; we are more networking events plus we are one of the most inclusive, diverse and friendly NGOs in town, it is very simple and free to become a member plus we provide a wonderful opportunity for networking, sustainability-related projects and events with a lot of other environment-friendly organizations in and around Lund.

4. How did Covid19 affect the work of Food Saving Lund?

COVID-19 has challenged us more than ever as our organization is all about working together as a community. One of our food bank partners have had to close down for a while due to the pandemic. We have tried to take maximum precautions throughout this period and followed all public health guidelines.

5. Which is the biggest challenge you have faced (or you are facing) since setting up this no-profit organization?

I think the transition period between semesters and especially in the summer is tough as a lot of our volunteers and admins move on from their roles and there are new volunteers coming in – one of the disadvantages of being in a university town but having said that, most of our volunteers are university students so we have a lot of nationalities and backgrounds represented creating one of the most diverse organizations around.

6. Which kind of reactions/feedbacks have Food Saving Lund received?

We have been on the Danish radio channel P1 in a show called Orienteering talking about FSL. We have been on the Journey Visions Podcast talking about how the organization was formed and how we have come along. We have been the subject of a master’s thesis and we have collaborated with a bunch of other organizations like Hallbart Universitet, ABC – Active Contributions for People and the Environment, EOS Cares, and Folkuniversitet. The general feedback has been quite positive and we have steadily reached more than 150 active members.

7. In your opinion, which role does youth play in raising awareness about environmental issues?

Most of our members are university students or young adults within the age group of 20-35. Youth plays a massive role in actively spreading the word, being involved and engaged in finding new ways, working on new ideas and realizing the potential an organization like FSL has in reducing food waste from the bottom-up approach.

8. Looking back at when you started the movement, is there something you would do differently?

One of the things that we have struggled with is having a proper structure from the start as we try to have as flat a hierarchy as possible. However, we have mostly overcome that challenge now. We would also start with the membership card idea that would add credibility to our members right from the beginning.

9. Do you think food waste should/could be addressed at the production level rather than at the end of the consumption process?

Yes, absolutely. We think our policymakers find rather simple solutions to complex problems that are quite short-sighted. In the long term, we need sustainable degrowth where we start producing less, save resources that are wasted on the packaging and raise awareness towards buying as much as we need rather than buying just because we can. There must be a balance between production and consumption and at the moment, we are producing much more than we can consume and yet there are regions and communities around the world that are severely affected by poverty and hunger. FSL is working towards creating that awareness which can empower individuals to make those little changes in our everyday life that can eventually cause a ripple effect in the future.

10.What’s next for you and Food Saving Lund?

Food Saving Lund has been growing steadily. Food Savers Malmo has reached out to us to know how we function as a group and we want to host some joint sessions. We have set up a democratic model at FSL where we can have a constant inflow of admins who could take over every 6 months to a year. There is a lot of transparency and accountability in the way we work. At a personal level, I have explored the idea of Food Saving Vilnius and that is something to look forward to. I am also involved as a chairperson and strategic head at Journey Visions Podcast, as a board member at ABC – Active Contributions for People and the Environment, as the Project Developer of On Cloud Wine and my work as a clinical medical researcher in Oncology.

11.Which advice would you give to young people like you who want to be more active in environmental protection?

It is never too late to find your tribe, find what you believe in and reach out. There are a lot of wonderful sustainability and environment-related initiatives that could be used with more people being involved so reach out to the ones closest to where you live. There is a plethora of education material available online so you’re encouraged to educate yourselves and do not be hesitant in asking questions. Remember, every little bit counts

Food waste goes beyond the food itself: the problem also involves the water, land and labour used to produce it as well as the pollution caused for transporting it! It is very inspiring to talk to these motivated and brilliant young people, working together with such great commitment.

Thanks a lot for chatting with us! We wish you the best of luck for your future!

Martina Forbicini