This profile was prepared when Wojciech Onyszkiewicz was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Wojciech Onyszkiewicz has a long involvement with the problem of food distribution in Poland, as he was the key organizer of the civic initiative to provide soup to the hungry during the tough winter of 1990. After that experience he searched for a more creative and sustainable food distribution system that could induce greater civic involvement and a higher level of understanding and participation. His research took him to France, where he studied the French food bank system, which is based on donations of shelf-expired bulk food products from large grocery companies or distributors.Wojciech has adapted the food bank system to maximize its impact in the Polish setting, both to feed hungry people and to nourish Poland's fledgling civil society. His decision to distribute fresh food elicits the participation of Poland's large farming population, and he offers them something in return that further cements the relationship between rural and urban Poles: the children of participating farmers are invited to go along on the distribution trips to Warsaw and other large urban centers, where they enjoy cultural exposures they would not otherwise have. He mobilizes support from restaurants and the business community in these cities because it is a public relations opportunity for them; he includes their participation in media coverage of his project. He has also established a special seal that participating merchants can display in their shops, which informs their customers about their contribution to the program and thus encourages Poland's new and growing consumer class to combine social concern with its purchasing power.