“Agroinvestor” published the opinion of Natalia Shagaida, Head of Agrarian Department at the Gaidar Institute, on development of food-sharing concept in Russia.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade supported the development of a food-sharing program in Russia. According to the project, retail chains will be able to donate expired food to those in need free of charge. This refers only to food that is fit for consumption, has the necessary quality certificates and complies with current regulations. Every year, more than 17 million tons of food waste is generated in Russia, and in addition to the humanity, disposing of such an amount of waste has far-reaching impacts for the environment.

Natalia Shagaida is positive about the development of food-sharing in Russia. She thinks that at least three household income groups in Russia now spend most of their budget on food, but they can only buy up to 85% of the recommended norm, and such a program would help them. The expert believes that food-sharing is an excellent measure to support people in a difficult life situation, when help is needed right now. However, this mechanism can be only a helping hand, one of the supports for those in need, but not a substitute for targeted food aid.

Moreover, the disposal of expired food is a huge loss to the economy, continues Natalia Shagaida. "It is a barbaric attitude towards our own resources, as too much already grown and processed produce is thrown away. It is a pity that it took us so long to get to food-sharing. I know that retailers and consultants have been talking about the need to introduce this program for a long time, and we have also promoted this idea back in 2017. In many countries around the world, both poor and rich, food-sharing has been in operation for a long time. Most commonly, these foods are brought to certain places, usually at religious institutions, charities, and there they are distributed to those in need," she commented.

According to Natalia Shagaida, the program does not need excessive government control in terms of food distribution: volunteers will figure out where to bring food, decide on the amounts and prevent trafficking these foods to the market. "It is not a substitute for food aid, when households get guaranteed and predetermined support. However, all such programs evidence challenges: people may become accustomed to assistance and be happy with it alone, giving up trying to improve their well-being, even if it is feasible," she points out. It is therefore crucial to provide support to those in need on the one hand, but on the other not to encourage people to accept this situation permanently. For this purpose, some countries set time limits for assistance, for example, a few months, and during this time the individual has to find a job, undergo retraining courses, etc.