How a weekly vegan-friendly dinner in The Hague, fights food waste in The Netherlands.

You are what you eat, that’s how the old saying goes. And what about what we don’t eat? What about what we throw away? Does that say anything about us? It’s pretty common knowledge that food waste in The Netherlands, and in the whole world, is a concerning issue. International organisations like the UN and national governments – including the Dutch – are aware of this issue and promote actions against it.

Creative and delicious actions against food waste in The Netherlands have also been created by the general public. The Hague is home to one of those community-led efforts.

Enter ‘The Conscious Kitchen’.

Every Thursday at 19:00, the small community center in Witte de Withstraat 127, becomes the locale of a vegan friendly dinner hosted by ‘The Conscious Kitchen’. This group of environmentally-concerned individuals makes a weekly dinner cooked exclusively with ‘almost-discarded’ fruits and vegetables collected from various supermarkets. The project aims to create awareness of the issue of food waste; promote a more plant-based diet; sustainability; and build an overall tighter community of environmentally-concerned residents.

Everyone is welcome, and if you’re short on cash you can pay by volunteering to collect food on Wednesdays, serve plates during the dinner, wash plates after dinner or cook! You can also contribute with some always welcomed spare change.

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Last Thursday’s all-vegan, all-environmentally friendly dinner!

If you’re already sold on the idea, check them out on Facebook and head over there next Thursday. You do not need to reserve!

The Conscious Kitchen:

Place: The Hague; Witte de Withstraat 127.

Time: Every Thursday at 18:45 (be there on time!).

There’s a lot that happens before, during and after the actual dinner. This creative eating experience is definitely worth taking a closer look into. So, I decided to volunteer for last Thursday’s ‘Conscious Kitchen’ dinner, and see what this weekly event against food waste in The Netherlands is all about.

Taking action against food waste.

A considerable community-level response has met the problem of food waste. In a country where the priority of pro-environment actions can be put in doubt at times, the same cannot be so easily said of its inhabitants.

“We wanted to do something about food being wasted, but we also wanted to bring people together. This idea turned into this dinner you see today.” Said one of the initiative’s founders.

Wednesdays: Grocery shopping for Thursday’s dinner.

On Wednesday January 31 at 16:50, myself and a group of other volunteers headed to The Hague Market. We used the group’s ‘bakfiets’ and collected fruits, vegetables and grains that were about to be thrown away.

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Some of the “rescued” food of The Hague Market.

It was amazing to see the amount of free fruits and vegetables we got. A lot of salesmen/women of The Hague Market were happy to give us food they were throwing away: avocados, melons, sweet potatoes, mangos etc.

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Bakfiets FTW!

We took that night’s food to the community center at Witte de Withstraat 127, and left it there for the delicious cooking that would happen the day after.

Thursday: Dinner is served.

Volunteers started cooking Thursday at 16:00. A delicious aroma of freshly cooked dinner welcomed me to the venue at 18:00. The community center was already full with people arranging tables, preparing the dishes and early birds like me.

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The special ingredient is awareness.

“It really gets full sometimes. We recommend to be here at around 18:45 to make sure you get a place.” Said a volunteer stirring a delicious tomato soup.

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A community center put to great use!

By 19:15, people eager to see that night’s dinner began filling the venue. Most of the people there were international students, with a Dutchie here and there. A ton of people went there alone, simply to see what is was all about, and to meet new people. By 19:30, someone rang a bell, and announced that night’s dinner. A soup, a main course and a dessert is always part of the menu.

It’s all about community and awareness

“It’s all about building community.” Said one of the organisers of last Thursday’s dinner. “This whole thing is about bringing people together, and building together a conscious community of people aware of things like food waste and sustainability. Hence the name, ‘Conscious Kitchen‘”.

The food was amazing, and I met a lot of interesting people at my table. I didn’t know anyone, but it really didn’t matter. Volunteers set up the tables in a way that makes talking to each other and meeting new people easy. Some people are regulars or go with friends. But since there are only long tables, sitting next to someone you don’t know is very probable. The whole place is pleasantly loud with conversation, and last Thursday a few musicians from the Conservatorium Van Amsterdam (CVA) filled the venue with some nice jazz.

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I’ll have my soup with a side of Jazz please.

Get involved!

“Listen, if you want to contribute and help out, just show up and show commitment.” Exact words of one of the founding members of ‘The Conscious Kitchen’.

If you want to volunteer in any way shape or form, send the group an inbox on their social media. You can fill up one of their volunteer forms, and voilà! You can go collect food on Wednesdays, cook on Thursdays, serve plates or clean them.

There’s not a set numerical formula to solve food waste, so the solutions to this issue come in all shapes of creative. However they all appear to have two things in common: they are all helpful; and they require people willing to take action. Positive change starts with an action, and grows through the support of inspired reactions.

What do you think of ‘The Conscious Kitchen’? Let us in the comment section about other cool initiatives against food waste in The Netherlands.

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