Foodsharing - A Contemporary Way Of Converting Perishable Food Into a Common Good

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: 512
Oral Presentation
Stefan SELKE , Health, Safety, Society, Furtwangen University, Furtwangen, Germany
The paper discusses foodsharing as an controversial issue and thereby focusses on the role of a smartphone application which has recently been launched in Germany.

Foodsharing seems to fit perfectly into the sharing economy. A debate about food waste in affluent societies has created a new public mood concerning the discussion about the ethics of food thrown away. A foodsharing app has been introduced in 2012. The app is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) and promoted by the prominent filmmaker Valenthin Thurn („Taste the Waste“). It enables consumers to announce surplus stocks to be shared with others.

Several paradoxes appear by analysing this idea. Firstly, a foodsharing app is an example of what Guy Débord calls the “Society of the Spectacle”. It is becoming fashionable to receive public approval for symbolic solutions instead of executing sustainable politics (e.g. against food waste). Secondly, a foodsharing app is an example for de-skilling people in modern societies, who have forgotten basic abilities, like asking their own neighbour if they need left over food. This reveals the main social mechanism of the app: It serves to re-skill people about cooperation and sharing.

Some more questions arise from this perspective. If foodsharing transforms food into a common good a new informal consumer market emerges in which trust is privatised. New solutions for domestic consumer concerns have to be found and requirements and responsibilities have to be balanced out.

The paper discusses the example of foodsharing focussed on its social impact. It is a contribution to the discussion about social sustainability in the form of a (national) case study. However, the findings can be generalised for similar fields of practise.