A new initiative offers homecooked meals for people who need it the most.
Struggling in the Netherlands
Though the Netherlands appears to be a very prosperous country, and for a lot of people it is, there are still many citizens who are struggling to make ends meet. The Gaarkeuken, or, soup kitchen, exists to help those people who have trouble putting food on the table.
The Dutch Food Bank
Though the Dutch welfare system aims to make sure nobody goes hungry, there system isn’t perfect and there are many people who have trouble putting (good) food on the table.
Clara and Sjaak Sies, who have been through a similar struggle, wanted to do something about this hidden poverty and provide people with food. In 2002, they initiated the first Dutch food bank. Soon, their food bank started to grow and branch out.
In 2006, the food bank was turned into a national organisation; eight regions, eight regional food banks. This led to the Federation of Food banks of the Netherlands. In 2013, this brought forth the Union of Dutch Food banks, or vernacular, Dutch Food banks. In 2016, 166 food banks and eight distributioncentra joined and today there are over 535 distributution points, with over 11.000 volunteers.
A tally at the end of 2016 counted 135.000 people who applied for food packages and over 2 million packages were distributed to 30.500 households.
To make it even better; over 12.000 tons of food were distributed in 2016 that would otherwise have been destroyed, and this translates to the preventing of over 9 million tons of CO2 emissions.
Ambition to spare
Now that the food bank was an incredibly large operation, Clara and Sjaak decided that they wanted to do something else. Due to the size of the operation, the founders couldn’t get around to helping hands on on the workfloor, and that’s where their hearts lie.
So they decided to turn the food bank over to capable hands, and moved on to their next project: de Gaarkeuken. Founded in early 2017, this soup kitchen doesn’t just hand out food; it serves it warm in a nursing home.
The kitchen in nursing home ‘de Steenplaat’ in the city of Rotterdam, is used to prepare meals for both the poor and elderly. Due to budget cuts, the kitchen was closed and the elderly living in the nursing home, only got frozen meals.
Sjaak and Clara saw an opportunity and opened their soup kitchen in the closed-down restaurant. With the help of a team of about 25 volunteers, they prepare meals for both the elderly and the poor living in the neighborhood, and serve them warm meals in a sociable setting.
Four days a week, they serve about 60 people who get a warm meal, dessert and coffee of tea.