Foodbank goes online to reach the needy

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A foodbank has opened its own store on Chinese e-commerce website Taobao. The shop, which went online on Sept 16, aims to provide food close to its sell-by date to those who can’t afford to meet their daily calorie needs. Any orders placed through the site are delivered free of charge.

Founded in 2014, the Oasis Food Bank is the first and so far only foodbank in China to be certified by the World Food Bank. Like foodbanks in the United States, it collects food close to its expiration date and distributes it to people in need. Over the past seven years, it has helped save more than 1,000 tons of food which has helped to feed over 1 million people. Across the country, a total of 304 charities, community centers and schools have formed partnerships with the organization. And more than 50,000 volunteers help with the collection and distribution of food.

In order to ensure that the food it provides is safe for consumption, 90 percent of the donations it accepts are pre-packaged items, with the organization also accepting a small amount of fresh food. Among the donations it receives, staple foods such as rice, flour, grains and oil represent only a small percentage.

The decision to create an online store was taken to make up for the lack of sufficient food donations in some parts of China, something that often prevents the opening of a foodbank. In addition, compared to an online store, “bricks and mortar” foodbanks require more manpower and benefit only those living nearby.

Yang Liqing, the owner of the “Long Bai Wei Speciality” Taobao food store, which is based in Lintao County, Gansu Province, recently tried virtual food donations for the first time. Yang provided the link and the amount of donated food to the Oasis Food Bank, and the food was then listed on the Oasis’ Taobao store. Like any other Taobao store, once an order is placed, the food is shipped directly to the customer from Lintao County instead of being sent to a physical foodbank first – saving both time and money.

The Oasis Food Bank has even established a food tracking system, maintaining a record of the source of each item, where it is stored and the distribution process. Its system requires more details to be recorded for donations from food companies, including production date, shelf life, transportation and storage conditions.

While helping those in need, Oasis’ Taobao store will follow the World Food Bank’s principle of avoiding food waste. For anyone who wants to order food from the organization’s Taobao store, he or she must provide their ID; and each person can only get one delivery of free food per day. Unsurprisingly, Oasis prioritizes orders from low-income households, people with disabilities and orphans with proof of their financial situation.