Fight against waste and food aid

The Municipality of Milan has made the fight against food waste one of the pillars of its activities from 2015 to today, catalyzing numerous projects and initiatives in the area and promoting innovation in this area by involving public and private partners already active or even just interested in these new planning.

- Neighborhood hub against food waste they were the most visible and important example from which the new actions in the field today also originated and which bring together two important and distinctive aspects for the city of Milan in the redefinition of its food system as sustainable but also inclusive: fight against food waste e food aid.

Thanks to the effective action of the Neighborhood Hubs created with a pilot project started in 2017 with memorandum of understanding between the Municipality of Milan, the Cariplo Foundation, Assolombarda and the Polytechnic of Milan and materialized in 2019 with the opening of the first Isola Hub in via Borsieri 2, the Municipality also reached the important milestone in 2021 of victory in the first edition of the Earthshot Prize, on the best solutions to protect the environment, established by The Royal Foundation chaired by Prince William.

The prize, which offered one million pounds for each winner, made it possible to start theaction to strengthen existing Hubs, encourage the opening of new ones and integrate with new recovery actions from the markets. Furthermore, among the objectives of the award is to activate replicability actions of this good practice in the network of cities that work with Milan on food policy, starting from the C40 city network and the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact. 

Where are we today?

The five Neighborhood Hubs active in the city are:

  • Island, via Borsieri 2 (active since 2019, manager: Lombardy Food Bank)
  • Lambrate,Via Bassini 6 (active since 2020, manager: Lombardy Food Bank)
  • Gallaratese, via Appennini 50 (active from 2021, manager: Terre des Hommes)
  • Foody zero waste, Via Cesare Lombroso 54, at the Milan Agri-Food Market (active since 2021, shared management between several third sector operators: Recup, Banco Alimentare, Italian Red Cross, Caritas Ambrosiana)
  • Centro, via Santa Croce (active from 2022, manager: IBVA at the Solidando Hub space)

The action of the Neighborhood Hubs against Food Waste is also in line with the objectives of the Air-Climate Plan of the Municipality of Milan, in particular with action 1.7.3, which aims to reduce food waste by 50%, in compliance with the Food Policy of Milan. This action aims to combat social and economic inequalities and contribute to reducing the environmental impact in the food system.

Implementing Neighborhood Food Waste Hubs required a mix of funding from various sources, including public funds and private donations from companies and realities sensitive to the cause of food waste. The Municipality of Milan played a significant role, making space and human resources available to support the initiative. Furthermore, Third Sector organizations provided material and human resources, contributing to their inclusiveness and rootedness in the local community. This diversification of economic resources ensured the long-term financial sustainability of the initiative.

in 2023 have been collected through the Hubs over 615 tons of food, of which 574 tons from the five Neighborhood Hubs currently active in Milan, to which are added 41 tons from uncovered markets. The beneficiaries were approximately 27.000 vulnerable people, equivalent to approximately 1.230.000 meals.

Since 2023 it has been the co-programming and co-planning process has started designed thanks to the financial support received from the Royal Foundation, in which Third Sector Bodies participated who applied for the relevant Public Notice. All were admitted 36 third sector bodies who have expressed interest in participating. Each organization was given the opportunity to participate in all the working groups created in order to analyze the different work proposals to be promoted.

To these subjects were added: 12 partners of the Municipality, involved to increase the effectiveness of the analysis and possible solutions and who have been collaborating for years with the Administration for the development of the Neighborhood Hub projects. Overall, 89 people took part in the workshop, including third sector organizations and partners. 
The participants were divided into three working groups: 
• Enhancement of existing hubs 
• Opening of new Neighborhood Hubs 
• Innovative proposals to integrate into the Hub system 

Each group, with the help of project sheets, and with the moderation of the Municipality, was questioned on the needs and solutions, starting a dialogue between all the participants. At the end of the group work the contents were returned to the plenary

The two co-programming meetings resulted in the co-programming report on the basis of which the co-planning notice was built for the presentation of projects aimed at implementing what emerged for the 3 different lines of work.

Download co-programming report

The new unitary project 2024/2025

The project is configured as aambitious convergence initiative, turn to face the complex challenges that revolve around food sustainability and the fight against waste, in the context of the City of Milan. The challenges faced range from guaranteeing food safety to promoting environmental sustainability, from adopting ethical practices to encouraging innovation in the fight against waste and the redistribution of surpluses. 

Although involving projects of a different nature and a broad spectrum of actors and initiatives with different stages of progress, the project outlines shared goals, the action plan, implementation times and use of resources. 

Download Hub unitary project 2024/2025 

Download the slides illustrating the project, presented during the press conference on 5 February 2024 at Sala Alessi

As part of the Food Policy, starting from 2018 the Municipality of Milan has developed, in concert with a network of local, private, institutional and third sector actors, a series of neighborhood hubs to recover edible food waste from points sale from large-scale retail trade in the city and from the Sogemi - Foody wholesale market and from some company canteens, in order to redistribute it - through the involvement of organizations and bodies active in the social sector - to the most vulnerable families. 

This system has contributed to defining effective public-private partnerships, involving dozens of subjects over time who work together to prevent food waste, reduce CO2e emissions linked to the disposal of surplus food and promote food safety and the right to food. In four years (2019 – 2022) the network of Neighborhood Hubs against food waste was built and expanded, thanks to the growing coordination between the bodies involved starting from the promoters: Politecnico di Milano e Assolombarda signatories of “Zero Waste” memorandum of understanding in the 2016, the QuBi program e Cariplo Foundation; the Municipal Districts; The managing bodies who have increased their expertise and activities in the field of food aid and the supporting bodies who have allowed the opening of the Hubs in recent years.

In the last 5 years (2019 - 2023), the Network of Neighborhood Hubs against Food Waste has been built and expanded, optimizing its functioning thanks to a coordination system based on the participation and sharing of functions and responsibilities by various subjects involved in the creation of the system.

To date they are active in the city of Milan 4 Hub, Isola, Lambrate, Gallaratese, Centre; a further experience is represented byFoody Zero Waste Hub launched in a pavilion of the fruit and vegetable market, thanks to the synergy between the Municipality of Milan, the Cariplo Foundation, the University of Milan, and the Third Sector bodies active for the recovery and redistribution of fruit and vegetable surpluses.

The system of Neighborhood Hubs against food waste finds, as fundamental elements of its effectiveness, theactivation, maintenance , valorisation of a strong stakeholder engagement process which over the years has involved the engagement of multiple public and private entities, such as Third Sector and private social bodies, actors from the private sector and large-scale retail trade, supra-local institutions, international partners, universities and research centres. This in addition to the institutional framework guaranteed by the significant collaboration between system actors, such as the Cariplo Foundation, Assolombarda and the Polytechnic of Milan. In the city context, there are in fact many subjects present and active engaged in recovery and redistribution of edible food surpluses; the contribution of these subjects is significant, not only in operational terms, but also and above all with respect to the representation of emerging needs, and the formulation of innovative proposals for the implementation of the system.

Hub setup
The Hubs are usually set up with a cold room for the management of fresh food, with shelving for dry and packaged food and with an administrative station for managing the archive and procedures. The use of a van equipped with a cold storage room, provided by an operator for the purposes of the project, allows surpluses to be recovered from supermarkets on a daily basis and stored in the hub for redistribution to non-profit organisations. Before Covid, the collection of surpluses from company canteens was also active, a practice that has been resuming in recent years, also as a function of new organizational models that have emerged.

Types of food collected and donated
The neighborhood hub model allows you to act on all types of food collected: fresh, cooked and dry food, fruit and vegetables, bread. Direct contact between the supermarket and the non-profit organization risks generating single-product peaks that are difficult to manage; the hub instead allows the recovered food to be mixed, allowing a varied, nutritious and balanced food offering to be donated to people in need, alongside direct contact between the supermarket and the non-profit organisation. 

Recovery logistics model
The logistics model provides two daily recovery paths: 
Supermarkets - Morning Recovery of unsold packaged fresh and dry food, loose and/or packaged fruit, surplus bread from supermarkets.
The recovered food is stored at the collection and sorting hubs

Nonprofit Organizations Retreat – Afternoon 
Non-profit organisations, which offer canteen service or parcel distribution to people in need, can go to the hub to collect assorted foods they need using their own vehicles.

The partners of the Neighborhood Hubs against food waste

Supporting bodies: QuBi Program, Milan Foundation, Banca di Credito Cooperativo di Milano and Snam Foundation.

Managing bodies: Lombardy Food Bank, Terre des Homme Italia, Ibva Solidando; Foody Zero Waste Hub: Sogemi, Cariplo Foundation, University of Milan, Lombardy Food Bank, Recup, Southern Milan Red Cross, Eco dalle Città, Caritas Ambrosiana, Italian Red Cross Milan Committee

Technical sponsors: Avis Milano, SoDe social delivery, Armando Testa

Signs involved: Lidl, Esselunga, Carrefour, Coop Lombardia, Il Gigante, Natura Sì, Iper La grande i, Unes, Getir, Pam, Erbert, Conad, Glovo, with 37 total sales points.

The subjects involved in the new 2023/2024 neighborhood hubs

The three neighborhood hubs that will be active by 2024 follow a now consolidated model of public-private partnership which involves numerous actors. In particular:

  • il Food Hub Cuccagna The project's leader is the Associazione Consorzio Cantiere Cuccagna Impresa Sociale, to which are added Emergency Ong onlus, Recup Associazione di Promozione Sociale, Associazione Economia e Sostenicità, Associazione Comunità il Gabbiano ODV and Fondazione Acra;
  • l'Widespread hub will see the collaboration of Comin Coop Solidarity Soc., Milano Positiva Aps, T12 Lab Association, Parish of Santa Maria Assunta in Turro, Terza Settimana Odv, Mutuo Soccorso Milano Aps;
  • l'Hub Selinunte, a future logistics hub for food distribution, will finally be managed by Coopi international cooperation onlus.

The situation created following the spread of the Coronavirus in Milan, and the consequent measures for its containment, have required the development of specific actions regarding access to food for some more vulnerable subjects, and the promotion of online purchasing methods and home delivery to guarantee the supply of food to the greatest number of people in the area. 
The Municipality of Milan has thus activated a series of initiatives in favor of citizens in synergy with a multitude of actors in the city, including food aid.

First food aid device March-June 2020
In particular, starting from 16 March 2020 the Food Aid Device, a 15-week project created through the synergy between the Municipality's Departments - Social and Housing Policies, Environmental Transition, Urban Economy, Food Policy Office - together with the Municipality's associated companies - Milano Ristorazione, Amat, Sogemi - and with the Civil Protection of Milan, the Italian Red Cross - Milan Committee, the third sector associations - Banco Alimentare, Caritas Ambrosiana, IBVA and together with Programma QuBi and the Cariplo Foundation and many others as part of the Milan Help actions.

The Device aimed to provide food support during the acute phase of the emergency, centralizing the supply chain and directly taking charge of the distribution of weekly food aid. For this purpose, the opening of 10 temporary hubs dedicated to the preparation of food aid. 
The beneficiaries were identified by the social services of the Municipality of Milan and by the third sector operators Caritas Ambrosiana and Programma QuBì among the elderly and fragile families of Milan.

The service provided that the foodstuffs available at the logistics centers of the Lombardy Food Bank in Muggiò, of the Italian Red Cross - Milan Committee in Segrate, and from the Fruit and Vegetable Hub at SoGeMi, were redistributed in the temporary hubs, where employees of the The municipality and volunteers from the associations were responsible for organizing and preparing food aid for the beneficiary people and families.
In 15 weeks of activity, the Food Aid Device supported over 20.700 people and over 6.300 families in difficulty, moving a total of over 616 tons of food every week and making almost 50.000 deliveries of food aid.

2020 - Report of the first 15 weeks

In addition to the 10 Hubs, a Fruit and Vegetable Hub has been set up within the Milan Agri-Food Market dedicated to the packaging of kits consisting of fruit and vegetables to integrate food aid. Created in collaboration with Foody – Milan Agri-Food Market, AGO – Association of Fruit and Vegetable Wholesalers, and with the support of ACMO – Association of Fruit and Vegetable Market Traders, the Producers Consortium and the Nothing di Male Cooperative, in 8 weeks of activities a total of 138 were distributed tons of fresh produce.

2020 - Video presentation of the fruit and vegetable hub
2020 - Video TGR

During the activities, many donations were received including foodstuffs, materials and economic resources. To cover the expenses, a fundraising campaign promoted by the Milan Community Foundation with the support of the Municipality of Milan, the QuBi Program and Milan Città Stato was also launched.

Deputy Mayor Scavuzzo fundraising video

Milan Catering during the pandemic
Milano Ristorazione, the subsidiary company of the Municipality of Milan which deals with school and collective meals, has been on the front line since the first day of the emergency, making staff, systems and equipment available. Despite the suspension of school canteen services, during the emergency the home services for the elderly and those dedicated to the Disabled Day Centers, the Jannacci reception home, the Assisted Health Residences and the Michelangelo Hotel remained active.

Furthermore, the company took prompt action to donate uneaten food in closed school canteens. Part of the food – salad, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, dairy products and eggs – was donated to the Lombardy Food Bank and other organizations active in the collection and distribution of food surpluses, including City Angels and the Refettorio Ambrosiano. 

Among the company data for the period it emerged that if normally the production was 46.000 school meals per month, of which 1.100 health-related and 1.500 ethical-religious. On the other hand, there were 4.500 monthly meals usually prepared for the elderly at home, a number which in the Covid period rose to 4.900, to also satisfy the needs related to the emergency. Furthermore, in addition to ensuring the service, donations of surplus fresh food to the Food Bank Foundation, Caritas, City Angels and other local charitable organizations continue. The balance at the end of the period was over 46351 kg of donated food, including cheese, eggs, meat, vegetables, fruit and yogurt.

2020 - Video MiRi actions during Covid

“Building Hope” Extra Supply - December 2020
During 2021, the food support action for people in difficulty continued also thanks to the "Building hope: emergency support for hospitals and vulnerable families in Italy affected by Covid-19”, promoted by the AVSI Foundation, organized in collaboration with the Milan Committee of the Italian Red Cross, supported by the Municipality of Milan and financed by the United States Agency for International Development with a contribution of 225 thousand euros. Through the purchase of an extraordinary supply of foodstuffs during the month of January is
It was possible to distribute 42 tons of food intended for 68 families in difficulty to 4.500 Third Sector entities active in the city (parishes, associations and listening centers that were already beneficiaries during the first lockdown of the Food Aid Scheme), for a total of approximately 12.000 people supported. This supply was added to the supply sources already foreseen by the Food Aid Device of the Municipality of Milan and allowed a rapid increase in the availability of food resources for the families most affected by the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic.

Second food aid facility 2021/2022
To continue its commitment to combating food poverty and keep the Device's commitment active, the Municipality of Milan continued its commitment by providing economic resources for the purchase and distribution of food to families in difficulty, involving and strengthening the third sector network active in Milan in the distribution of food aid. They were identified through a public notice 9 aid distribution projects, involving 6 third sector bodies. At least 90% of the municipal contributions were used for the purchase of food and were granted to 6 entities for the development of 9 equally spread projects, gathering the support of 52 partners in the individual neighborhoods of the city and activating a group of 760 volunteers employed.

The projects, started in 2021, were also renewed in 2022 for a total value of €1.940.000, of which €1.400.000 covered by the Municipality. The selected projects concerned the strengthening of operational models relating to the distribution of food parcels, shops and social markets, and solidarity canteens. 

Consistent with Civil Protection Ordinance 658/2020, food support was allocated to the families most exposed to the economic effects deriving from the epidemiological emergency from the Covid-19 virus and among those in need, with priority for those not already assigned of public support. The food support from the 2nd and 3rd Devices was therefore provided to families actually domiciled in Milan already in the care of the selected bodies and families reported by the social services of the Municipality of Milan.

The Municipality, as part of the Food Aid Device, has also designed an Integrated Database to monitor the flow of food aid distributed in the city. The system is designed consistently with the General Data Protection Regulation n. 2016/679 and provides the participating Third Sector bodies with useful information for the purposes of the Food Aid scheme.

Third food aid device 
In November 2022, the new notice for the financing of the Third Food Aid Device was published with the aim of strengthening the capacity of Third Sector bodies in responding to the food aid needs of Milanese citizens, integrating the work of the bodies accredited in the circuit of the European Fund for Aid to the Destitute (FEAD) which in Milan has 193 organisations. 
The tender envisaged the allocation of approximately 1 million euros for the purchase and distribution of foodstuffs, aimed at the weakest sections of the population and each project envisaged the purchase of approximately 40-50 tonnes of food aid capable of distributing approximately 5 thousand food parcels, putting a total of 45 thousand food parcels into circulation.

Food aid facility 2023
New resources have contributed to supporting the Device which, thanks to the public notice opened in 2022, was able to finance new projects that will continue throughout 2023. 
As in previous years, the Notice envisaged that the Municipal contributions should be allocated to the purchase of foodstuffs, in an amount of no less than 90%; again in line with the guidelines of the Civil Protection, those families most exposed to the medium/long-term economic effects caused by the years of the pandemic were identified as beneficiaries of the measures and, among those in need, with priority for those not already recipients of public support. Promoting and disseminating the lessons learned is a fundamental step in improving this food aid support tool and for this reason, on the occasion of the publication of the 2022/2023 notice, two webinars were organized for all interested third sector entities, to increase skills in the planning phase of new actions.

2023 - Policy Brief on the Food Aid Device

Updated: 05/04/2024