Taichung nonprofit advances Taiwan’s efforts to tackle food waste

The 1919 Food Bank warehouse in central Taiwan’s Taichung City stores unwanted food from local businesses. (Staff photo/Chin Hung-hao)
The 1919 Food Bank warehouse in central Taiwan’s Taichung City stores unwanted food from local businesses. (Staff photo/Chin Hung-hao)
 
1919 Food Bank is one of the largest nonprofits of its kind in Taiwan dedicated to serving the needy while playing a major role in local efforts to eliminate food waste and hunger.
 
Established in 2010 by the New Taipei City-headquartered Chinese Christian Relief Association, 1919 collects food mainly from enterprises like processors and retailers. In its first two years of existence, 1919 dealt almost exclusively with goods that are short-dated or have flaws in the packaging.
 
1919 Director Sam Cheng said companies tended to sell items approaching expiration at a discount before, but today they are more willing to donate them as a way of demonstrating corporate largesse.
 
Sam Cheng, director of 1919 Food Bank, inspects packets of sauces produced at the nonprofit’s kitchen facility in Taichung. (Staff photo/Chin Hung-hao)
Sam Cheng, director of 1919 Food Bank, inspects packets of sauces produced at the nonprofit’s kitchen facility in Taichung. (Staff photo/Chin Hung-hao)
 
According to Cheng, 1919 started collecting and distributing perishable items like bread, fruit, meat and vegetables left on the shelf due to less-than-perfect appearance. The goal is to diversify what is given, although this means more volunteers must be mobilized to handle such food as they need to be consumed in a very short period of time, he said.
 
1919 ships donated foods from its six warehouses around Taiwan to nearly 200 area churches caring for 4,500 disadvantaged children and teenagers. It has also negotiated perishable foods daily donation agreements between 54 of the churches and 84 nearby stores owned by large retailers like Carrefour and PX-Mart.
 
1919 staffers conduct a recent anti-food waste awareness campaign in New Taipei City. (Courtesy of 1919 Food Bank)
1919 staffers conduct a recent anti-food waste awareness campaign in New Taipei City. (Courtesy of 1919 Food Bank)
 
Promoting the Taiwan-proposed Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Strengthening Private-Public Partnership to Reduce Food Losses in the Supply Chain initiative is another goal of 1919. Launched in 2014, the five-year undertaking involves APEC member economies tackling waste by recycling foods and other means.
 
Since the work of 1919 was spotlighted by partner Carrefour Taiwan Foundation at a related APEC workshop two years ago in Vietnam, the nonprofit has devoted more attention to its central kitchen in Taichung. At the facility, visually unappealing carrots and potatoes are cooked with pork and short-dated canned tomatoes to produce noodle and rice sauce highly prized by the underprivileged.
 
The kitchen produced 15 tons of the appetizing and nutritious food last year, Cheng said, adding that 1919 aims to increase this number and will continue figuring out ways to help more people. 
 
Unsightly vegetables are saved from the trash heap by charitable organizations like 1919. (Staff photo/Chin Hung-hao)
Unsightly vegetables are saved from the trash heap by charitable organizations like 1919. (Staff photo/Chin Hung-hao)