Nov 25, 2022
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Food: throw away or give to the hungry?

Food: throw away or give to the hungry?

Every year in Russia, 17 million tons of products that have expired are sent to landfill.

Specialists of the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Economic Development are convinced that at least a million tons of them could be transferred to needy citizens. But this requires changes in the legislation.

Germany became the first to distribute products with an expiring shelf life (food sharing). So the country struggled with excessive amounts of waste. The idea was taken up by other states. In Russia, food sharing could solve two problems at once – reduce waste and support the poor. But it’s cheaper for stores to throw out expired products than to distribute to those in need.


Five years ago in St. Petersburg next to the charity shop “Thank you!” food sharing was opened, in which, according to the plan of the organizers, everyone could either put food or take it away. But the project worked for only one day, after which the refrigerator was sealed by Rospotrebnadzor. The argument was quite logical: “We welcome charity, but this case does not concern things for the poor, but food. In case of poisoning people, the demand will be primarily from Rospotrebnadzor.”

This year, the topic of food sharing was supported by the government. In particular, the Ministry of Industry and Trade made the following statement: “According to expert estimates, if retail chains donate food products with a short shelf life to charity, this can support those in need and save a million tons of food a year from disposal.” At the same time, the Ministry of Industry and Trade clarified that food sharing is unprofitable for retail chains. The reason is simple: according to the law, when writing off goods, the store is exempt from paying VAT, and if it donates products to charity, it must pay value added tax. It turns out the absurdity of bureaucratic balancing act: it is cheaper to simply destroy, dispose of perfectly suitable food.

Experts of the Ministry of Economic Development also thought about saving food. Experts estimate that more than 17 million tons of food waste is generated in Russia every year. They noted that the initiative is important not only from a social point of view, but also from an environmental point of view. In general, they approved a good idea. However, the restrictions remain.

Meanwhile, the number of those in need has increased in the country. According to the results of the third quarter of 2022, household incomes accelerated the decline – to minus 3.4% in annual terms. If we translate this into money, then in one of the poorest regions – the Vladimir region with an average per capita income of citizens of 27,141 rubles per month – the current loss from the growth of tariffs / prices and lower wages amounted to 922.7 rubles. In the Tula region with an average income of 30,950 rubles, the loss amounted to 1,052.2 rubles, in St. Petersburg (income – 52,740 rubles), each average resident missed 2,534 rubles.

If we talk about food, then the expenses of the population from June 2021 to July 2022 grew on it regularly. Nearly 18 million people lived below the poverty line. They ate less and worse … But there were no shops for free distribution of expired food in our country, and there are none. At the same time, Rosprirodnadzor is sounding the alarm: there is five years of capacity left at landfills.


But where the state fails to do something, black foodsharing develops. For example, in Kazan, as local media wrote, they started from a container site near the Magnit store on the outskirts of the city. From early morning, ordinary pensioners begin to cluster here. A store worker rolls out crates filled with out-of-sale products. Revived people dismantle them in a matter of minutes. In the store, grandmothers are sorry, but at the same time they are afraid of controllers. Indeed, in Russian legislation, there is no procedure for the gratuitous transfer of any goods. Because any transfer is considered a sale, and the seller must pay all taxes and other payments from such a transaction …

In the Central Market of Kazan, two merchants do not distribute, but sell products … but at prices of the early 90s of the last century. For example, bread is sold for 7 rubles, milk – for 15. They sell cheap sweets, sausages, cheeses … Fiction? These products are overdue: some – for a week, others – a little more. This fact is not hidden from buyers. Here you can buy chicken for 50 rubles, and sausages with sausages – at about the same price. Yes, they have expired. But pensioners are happy. Many say that they have been shopping here for years, while they do not complain about their health.

It is interesting that the delay, which is traded in Kazan, is of capital origin. It is bought in Moscow for a penny. They are taken to Kazan and sold already for rubles. It turns out to be a small business. Stores sell expired products to merchants, sometimes this is done by intermediary companies, to which stores hand over expired products “for disposal”.

And this happens not only in Kazan. There is nothing to be surprised here. Market principles operate in the country: goods and buyers are available, but bad luck – there is no normal legislation in favor of the consumer.

Nikita Danilevich,

Andrey Knyazev.


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