As you can probably make out from my blog thus far, my relationship with food has been transformed in Copenhagen. As I started cooking more, I began to pay attention to the food I put in my body and my position in the global food system. I became conscious of the massive inefficiencies in food supply and the scale of food waste, particularly in the Global North. Unfortunately, Denmark is a major culprit in this regard – the country generates the most waste per capita in Europe. There are entire waste-powered energy plants that are reliant on Danes producing a steady stream of trash.
Around the time I had these realizations, I learned about Madboks at the DIS Activity Fair. Madboks is an organization dedicated to reducing food waste in Copenhagen – its volunteers collect unsold food from grocery stores and bakeries that would otherwise go to waste and hold public distribution events on Sundays. All volunteers get first dibs on the best-looking produce and bread! Occasionally, the group also hosts other events, such as community dinners. Madboks also seems to be a hit among DIS students – I was finally convinced to go when my friends Ellen and Kayah talked about how much they enjoyed spending time there.
For my first volunteer shift, I helped out with the distribution drive that was hosted at a community hall in Amager. We had a team of about 8 volunteers and 1 shift leader to organize the food into individual boxes, distribute it to visitors, and wipe down the crates afterward. However, with about half an hour until our guests began to arrive, our first order of business was claiming some of the goodies for ourselves! I picked up a loaf of rye sourdough from the sourdough section that was better than any sliced bread you can find at a grocery store. It truly elevated quick my go-to breakfast of toast and hummus! I also included a few vegetables I don’t normally cook with to diversify my diet, such as asparagus and broccoli.
After taking care of our grocery “shopping” for the week, it was time to get to work! My role for this shift was to wash, dry, and fold crates that had been used to transport and distribute food to ensure that they were ready for next time. I later realized that many volunteers try to escape cleaning duty but for my first time there, I thought it was a fine place to start. I was working with Pia, a student from Germany, and Romane, a pastry chef from France, and together we created an effective supply chain to clean the crates. We also had some great conversations about being a foreigner in Copenhagen. Once we finished, it was satisfying to see the tall stacks of boxes we individually cleaned and folded.
The social context of this volunteer work was not lost on me. The community hall is in a working-class neighborhood of Amager, and the police presence and homelessness indicate that it faces some societal issues. Our guests collecting food included young families, the elderly, and immigrants, and it was obvious how much the help meant to them amidst rising inflation. Once our shift was over, we distributed our remaining pastries to homeless people sitting outside that were of Greenlandic Inuit origin. This community battles social marginalization despite being full Danish citizens, and I was glad we were able to support them in some small way.
I hope to return to volunteer at Madboks for all my remaining weekends in Copenhagen. All in all, it’s a great way to meet people, save money on groceries, and help out for a great cause. I may shy away from cleaning duty at home, but I’ll do it any day for Madboks!