Copenhagen community kitchen highlights food insecurity with crowdfunding project

The organiser of a community kitchen started as a project to help fight loneliness says food insecurity is a hidden issue in Danish society.

Copenhagen community kitchen highlights food insecurity with crowdfunding project
Photo: One Bowl/Tanja Vinogradova

It has been four years since One Bowl, the ‘pay as you feel’ volunteer community kitchen, was launched in a church hall in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro area.

One Bowl has since evolved, switching between regular community dinners and pop-up events at various locations.

Fast forward to 2018 and One Bowl has just opened its own premises in a former kebab shop in the nearby Nordvest neighbourhood.

The core group of volunteers, led by Allwin Jebahar, originally from southern India, serve warm and cold dishes at least five evenings a week to around 30 people, who sit at long tables in the brightly-lit shop. The dishes offered at One Bowl are vegetarian and a mix of Indian, Mediterranean and Nordic cuisine.

Photo: Tanja Vinogradova

“Meals at One Bowl are offered on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis in order to ensure a proper meal to everyone, regardless of one’s situation. This means that there are no set prices on any food or drink at One Bowl. Whether you are in crisis, need a friend or just a cozy meal out in your local community that doesn't break the bank, we are delighted in welcoming you to eat, share and spend an evening with us,” says Jebahar.

One Bowl has developed into a more professional setup over the years and is run by five board members with a core of volunteers overseen by Jebahar.

“The idea of One Bowl is to help with loneliness but also to tackle the issue of food insecurity, which is often a hidden and misunderstood problem in Danish society. It is more than just about the food we serve here. For many people One Bowl has become their family and helps them through tough times,” the project’s founder said.

Food insecurity is defined as a state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. A recent study found that between one and four percent of Danes experience food insecurity at times, although this figure may be higher in some communities.

“We want to broaden people’s lives through One Bowl but also offer access to healthy food to more people. I have experienced food insecurity in my life and I understand the impact it has on you, it was the impetus to start One Bowl. We can share our stories over food and it helps people to feel less vulnerable,” Jebahar said.

“We also want people to explore the values behind voluntary organisations, to talk to more people about food insecurity and also try and be a little more community-minded,” he added.

The project is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to help with the costs of running and developing One Bowl. Contributions start at 50 kroner and a forthcoming One Bowl cookbook can also be purchased through the fundraiser.

More information about the crowdfunding campaign and how you can help can be found here.

READ ALSO: Government thinktank to tackle food waste in Denmark

For members


Why are record numbers in Denmark asking for charity help this Christmas?

More people than ever before have asked the Danish Red Cross for help this Christmas.

Why are record numbers in Denmark asking for charity help this Christmas?
Another charity in Denmark, Frelsens Hær, handing out Christmas packages in 2017. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish Red Cross expects to give up to 12,000 families assistance getting in food for Christmas this year.

That would represent a record number of families asking for a helping hand, Politiken reports.

Although an increase in people turning to charity for help sounds alarming, it is partly due to a reduction in negative connotations being made with financial difficulty, according to a head of department at the charity.

“In the last ten years, there has been an enormous increase in the number of families with children who apply for Christmas assistance. And we are going to set a record this year,” Ziga Friberg, head of the family section at the Danish Red Cross, told Politiken.

“This is not something we are pleased about, even though we’re happy to help. That’s because we’d prefer it if life wasn’t so hard that families need to ask for our help at Christmas,” Friberg said.

In 2010, 1,600 families with children received Red Cross Christmas help. The figure grew to 7,300 in 2015 and 11,700 last year.

The charity’s Christmas help package consists of either a food hamper or a gift voucher to be spent at a store belonging to the Coop supermarket chain.

Several factors are likely to have contributed to the increase in people turning to the charity for help at Christmas, Politiken writes.

“We know that many families still think it is embarrassing and shameful that they are in a situation where they need a helping hand. But we are quite convinced that it has become less of a taboo to ask for help when you need a hand, including at Christmas,” Friberg told the newspaper.

“The stigmatized shame with which (receiving) Christmas charity has always been associated is still there, but probably to a lesser degree,” she said.

Three criteria must be fulfilled for families to qualify for the charity’s Christmas help.

The family must include children, must not be receiving help from other charities, and Red Cross must exchange information about the family with local authorities, given that it is often municipal social workers who provide families with information about the Christmas charity packages.

“These are families known by the municipalities and who we often also know ourselves from our long-term activities. These are families who genuinely need a helping hand,” Friberg said.

Figures from the Economic Council of the Labour Movement (Arbejderbevægelses Erhvervsråd, ECLM) show that the last two years have seen a substantial increase in families struggling to make ends meet due to low income, according to Politiken’s report.

That is also likely related to the increased use of the Christmas charity package.

“These are not families with large social networks or other family members who can step in and help. These families are alone, often on social security, suffering from long-term illness or in very low-paid jobs which make it hard for them to give their children a Christmas that is just a little bit like the one the rest of us have,” Friberg said.

The Danish Red Cross is one of a number of charitable organizations in the country that offer assistance to underprivileged families at Christmas.

READ ALSO: Escape route from poverty shortest in Denmark: OECD