At the end of February, canned vegetable and legume producer HAK - an NPM Capital portfolio company - and food banks marked a key milestone in a partnership that dates back to 2012: the delivery of the five-millionth pot of vegetables to the food bank distribution centre in the Arnhem region. This is a great achievement, but food banks are still reporting an urgent need for daily deliveries of more healthy products, including vegetables, as well as for more partners, money and volunteers.
The food banks work hard to provide a versatile, ever-richer range of healthy nutrition options, but they are dependent on the products they receive from their partners, which vary from week to week. Food banks collect items that would otherwise go to waste. In recent years, food bank clients have seen a significant increase in the availability of fresh produce and products with a short shelf life, including vegetables. Substantial investment in refrigeration, together with other initiatives, means that fresh products can be collected every day from participating supermarkets, stored at food bank locations and then distributed to clients. There is even a ‘vegetable brigade’ who go to vegetable auctions in the Westland agricultural area to collect fruit and vegetables that would otherwise have been discarded.
Food banks do their utmost to provide each client with around 25 products from the five recommended food groups every week, and the clients buy other products themselves. As Marlies van Amerongen from the Association of Dutch Food Banks explains, “It’s very simple: the more money and healthy products we receive, the more ingredients for a complete meal we can distribute. The quality and shelf life of the products are of course crucial, which is why it’s so great that we can always rely on the HAK vegetables we have in stock. They last a long time, and keep all their vitamins and nutrients when they are canned during the growing season. That means we can help families who are living on subsistence incomes to eat healthy meals that include vegetables.”
HAK approached the food bank in 2012 with a proposal to donate products such as green beans, brown beans and mixed peas and carrots. The products are 100% food safe, but they are not quite good enough for sale under the HAK label and would otherwise be destroyed. “Maybe there’s a dent in the pot lid, or the can might not have been properly filled. Throwing away food doesn’t fit with HAK’s philosophy, and these products are perfectly suitable for consumption,” says HAK’s Yolanda van Grootel.
For nearly eight years now, HAK has been coordinating deliveries to all ten of the Association’s distribution centres according to an agreed pattern, ensuring that the pots of vegetables and legumes are distributed fairly and everyone who receives products from the food banks can benefit from them. The canned vegetable and legume producer pays all the logistical costs.