Project overview

Bancalimentos is an initiative focused on the financial inclusion of the rural population. Our mission is to address food insecurity in a sustainable way, by giving value to waste and allowing savings accounts to be converted into food, credit and food insurance. 

The problem

In Colombia, people who earn less than the minimum wage struggle to earn enough money to buy food. At the same time, these same people suffer from inefficient and ineffective waste management, especially in remote rural areas. What do these problems have in common? The waste thrown by them has a value that can be used to buy food. If this waste is exchanged for food, two problems will be solved: food security and contamination.

People standing in front of bags of recyclable waste; Photo: WFP/Jessika Camargo

The solution

Bancalimentos was created as a bank where people who experience food insecurity can exchange their recycled waste for food. In Bancalimentos, the currency to do transactions is the waste. The organization provides three different services: Food Savings Accounts where users can save their waste and in exchange obtain points redeemable for nutritional food; Emergency food credits, in which the users receive the food and later pay for it in installments with their waste; and finally Food Insurance, which provides food security in times of unemployment, economic crisis or work incapacity. 

Bancalimentos also found that waste can provide additional access to services. For that reason, they have formed partnerships with universities such as the Universidad Nacional Abierta y a Distancia (Open and Distance National University), which offers the possibility to study a professional career by paying the tuition fee with waste and Colpensiones, the Colombia's state entity in retirement savings, to provide savings for their retirement.

Woman in a shop, carrying food items exchanged for recyclable waste; Photo: WFP/Jessika Camargo

Users icon
Users in 9 venues in Colombia
Waste icon
Tons of waste received from users
Food icon
Tons of food provided to users in return
Partnership icon
Alliances with companies to provide counseling for them to use their packaging to create social businesses that empower women + alliances with UNDP Colombia, Colpensiones, UNAD and Universidad Nacional de Colombia
The way forward

Bancalimentos aims to open four new branches, two in Colombia and one each in Accra, Ghana and Italy. It also aims to develop their own banking software to facilitate and digitize operations and transactions. Finally, it is working towards creating new alliances to allow the purchase of additional services and goods using waste, as part of the payment of mortgages.

Woman seated behind a desk at the Bancalimentos office; WFP: Photo/Jessika Camargo

Meet the team

Olga Bocarejo
Olga Bocarejo
CEO and Founder
Lina Cataño
Lina Cataño
Innovation and New Product Development Director
David Andrade
David Andrade
Projects and Community Director
Karen Bruges
Karen Bruges
Gender and Empathy Director
Luisa Tovar
Luisa Tovar
Territorial Sustainable Development Director
Carlos Hernandez
Carlos Hernandez
Operations Director
Last updated: 22/08/2022