Better at the table than in the trash: 5 anti-waste food initiatives in the Netherlands
Although the debate on food waste is very advanced in the Netherlands, a report by the National Nutrition Centre is not flattering to Dutch behavior: they waste too much food. To be precise, between 1.77 and 2.55 million tonnes of food end up in the bin every year.
But something, especially among young people, is moving: in recent years there have been many initiatives around the country with the aim of focusing attention on food and especially on its waste.
In fact, most of the food discarded by traders is still edible but very often no longer considered at the level of sales standards. Ugly but good, in short. So, various anti-waste projects – born mainly in the major Dutch university cities including Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Maastricht and Groningen – deal with recovering food from markets and shops to save it from the rubbish bin and give it a new life.
On one of Amsterdam’s main streets, Frederik Hendrikstraat, every Wednesday from 6pm to 9pm you can enjoy a completely anti-waste dinner at Robin Food Kollektief. The delicious vegetarian dishes are cooked using products donated by the market and various grocery stores in the city. This project started in 2014 as a form of peaceful political protest and as an opposition to the capitalist mentality of waste. In order to be able to sit down, a minimum contribution is required but will then be fully donated to social projects such as “We Are Here” – an initiative aimed at undocumented migrants, or toward launching a chain of “Free Supermarkets”.
In the Zeeheldenkwartier area of The Hague, there is an organization that opens its doors to all those who want to enjoy a fully sustainable meal. The menu consists of three totally vegan courses, accompanied by a dessert. On Thursday, around 70 students or locals who are looking for a friendly place meet and spend an evening doing something different. One of the objectives of this association is to create a sense of community among the guests, so they strive for a multicultural and festive atmosphere.
Every Saturday from 4pm to 11pm, the ACU cultural centre in Utrecht hosts an entirely anti-waste dinner. Here guests can enjoy a vegan meal surrounded by a rich library. Books on Marxism, de-colonialism and veganism can be found on the shelves. Meetings are also often organized to discuss a particular book or anarchist themes. The aim of this group is to create a space for collective learning that goes against the capitalist ideology.
Born as an art project, the Free Café has achieved great success in the city of Groningen. Active since 2014, it was started with the help of 200 volunteers and is still expanding. Only two key ingredients are considered: the number of people and the reuse of society’s waste. According to the thinking of this association, society wastes enough to meet the needs of all. So money is seen as just an obstacle and the cause of the problems of today’s world. For this reason no economic contribution is required.
Since 2017, two German girls – Klara Strecker and Nicola Bauer – have been working on a project for everyone in Maastricht. They do not organize dinners but they distribute various types of food. Thanks to the collection of fruit, vegetables, sandwiches or croissants from supermarkets and hotels, many students have the opportunity to fill their pantries for free. The University’s Green Office has been chosen as the distribution point: in this way the initiative is aimed at all students regardless of their political opinions.
Translated from the original Italian article by Sara Marotta