After a long day at uni, my friends and I are having dinner in the homely atmosphere of an ex-squat with old wooden floors and candle light. The starter is served: A spicy salad with pomegranate topping. The main dish is a heartwarming potato soup and for desert we have a divine apple cake with strawberries. Our dinner is spectacular. Hard to believe that every bite we are having is made from food that has been thrown away.
The following week I meet Sophia, one of the founders of the initiative Taste before you Waste. As we talk, volunteers sort boxes with beautifully imperfect bananas and nibble some Turkish bread next to the entry door.
Why do we throw away so much food that is perfectly good to eat? That was the question it all started with in 2012. Inspired by a documentary on food waste, Taste before you Waste founder Luana approached some of the small Turkish and Moroccan supermarkets in Amsterdam Oost to ask if they would be willing to give away their food waste for free. They agreed straight away.
The year after, Sophia joined the initiative. The first projects they put into practice was a free food market at the campus of the Amsterdam University College, where Sophia and Luana studied. Besides, they donated food to local charities. Many of their fellow students became passionate about the idea and the project grew and grew. Soon we realized that we have to work in a more structured way. We decided to focus on raising awareness about the topic, instead of cycling food from one end of the city to the other.”
Today, Sophia works on the project full time with the support of a motivated cohort of volunteers. They offer a weekly dinner in Plantage Doklaan, a food market and a catering service – all based on 100% wasted food. “Many people think that there are legal restrictions that make it difficult to donate food waste, but actually that’s not the case.” says Sophia. Most of the products they receive are fruits, vegetables and bread, which don’t have an expiration date and therefore can be donated without problems. Products which are expired according to the “Best before” date can still be donated, if both parties are aware of it. Working with larger supermarket chains is difficult, Sophia explains, because they are more concerned with economic incentives. “Some supermarkets even poison their food waste to make sure that no one steals from it.”
Taste before you Waste also organizes workshops to raise awareness about the structural problem of food waste in our economic system and inform about it on their website. Worldwide, 30 to 50% of the food that is produced is wasted. Waste occurs at every level of the supply chain, from the farmer to the end consumer. In the Netherlands, every person throws away 47 kg food each year. This is not only an issue for the environment because the overproduction has its cost in terms of energy, water pollution and deforestation. It is also a social issue, because it increases the price of food on the world market. As so often, the consequences of our actions are paid for by people in developing countries. Therefore, the message that Sophia and her team try to convey is: Every little change matters! As consumers, we are responsible for around a third of the total amount of food waste. It is up to us to change our habits and to start to taste before we waste.
Taste before you waste recently started a Crowdfunding campaign to raise money to be able to extend their projects.