Buurt Buik

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Thomas De Groot:

"BuurtBuik is a Dutch non-profit that fights against foodwaste by collecting surplus food from supermarkets, catering companies and restaurants in order to cook free meals with that food for everyone in the neighbourhood. It is also a movement to promote inclusive sustainability or, as they call it, ‘social circularity’. BuurtBuik works with companies like HelloFresh, social organisations like the Salvation Army and institutions like the municipality of Amsterdam to raise awareness about foodwaste, social exclusion, poverty, loneliness and health.

The Netherlands is one of the richest countries on earth, yet many Dutch people have lived mostly the adverse effects of thirty years of exceedingly neoliberal and austere policies. Decades of center-left and center-right governments have led to a paradoxal situation. Dutch GDP grows 1 or 2 percent each year, yet around 200,000 Dutch children and 8 percent of households live below the poverty line.3,4 In cities like Amsterdam, 1 in 6 people live below the poverty line, 27,000 of which are children. 7 per cent of the population (more than one million people) feel severely lonely. In Amsterdam, that group accounts for one-sixth of the population. Lonely people have a statistically higher chance of being poor and vice versa. Both poverty and loneliness are very bad for your health. In fact, lonely people that live in poverty have a health-life expectancy (the number of ‘healthy years’) that is 15 years lower than the average young urban professional that might live in the same street as them.

All over The Netherlands, teams of volunteers organize BuurtBuik-meals in community centers. The meals are cooked using only surplus food from supermarkets and restaurants in the neighbourhood. All meals are always free and accessible for everyone. This is the formula that has made BuurtBuik grow out to become one of the most vital and inspiring initiatives in the country. The volunteers at BuurtBuik have set out to battle food waste, which is a huge problem. In Amsterdam, for instance, businesses and consumers together throw away more than 100,000 kilograms of good food each year.10 If food waste were a country, it would be in the top three biggest polluters in the world, right behind China and the United States.11 The emissions that are released to sustain our global food production accounts for one tenth of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Just working on one of these challenges, whether it is poverty or food waste, would be a daunting task for any organisation. But groups like BuurtBuik in The Netherlands or FoodTopia in Spain explicitly choose a systemic approach. This means that they see all of these challenges as part of one problematic system. So they feel it is only natural that they tackle all of these problems at once. “Less state, more neighbourhood”, says Jesús. “We look for shared identities of our neighbours, we strive for social, political and economic ownership of people, of citizens. Our food system should be the empowering catalyst for communities of people to become once again the drivers of their own future.” (http://networkcultures.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/OUR_COMMONS_lulu.pdf?)


Excerpted from chapter 5, of the Book: Our Commons: Political Ideas for a New Europe. Ed. by Sophie Bloemen and Thomas de Groot. Commons Network, 2019 [1], see: Commons-Based Political Ideas for a New Europe

  • Social Circularity: Food-sharing Platforms Are Re-inventing Urban Solidarity. by Thomas de Groot