“We cooked this meal from trash”

“We cooked this meal from trash”

In 2014, 19-year-old Francesca Ali’ was faced with the enormous amounts of food waste happening in the supermarkets. She wanted to take action against food waste. With her best friend Carrot Patch, they decided to go for it. Their go-get-it attitude resulted in the volunteer run organization Taste Before You Waste. Every Saturday they cook a vegan meal from food, that would otherwise have been wasted.

Many people grow up in households, where eating leftovers from the same day isn’t seen as normal. Francesca Ali’ is one of these people.

“I had to change my mindset. The biggest factors that helped me make that change was community and exposure to how other people minimize their food waste. First-hand experience is key.”

Community at the heart

Ever since setting up Taste Before You Waste in 2014, Ali’ and her best friend Carrot Patch have been building their community. The culture of their community is very social, at the cooking session before the dinner, chatting filled the air.

After washing everything, from apples to lettuce, the chopping began. Looking at the finds of Friday, the volunteers decided to cook a lentil stew with rice, salad, chutney and a pear crumble as well as baked apples for dessert. Over the chopping and cooking of food, stories of previous events, experiences about wasting less and dumpster diving were shared with great enthusiasm. Throughout the cooking the mindset of wasting as little as possible was obvious.

Ali’ shared the story of her parents’ reaction, when she first told them about the mission of Taste Before You Waste:

“They were like ‘nah, that’s not gonna happen’. As many other Italians would have reacted.”

But the two founders didn’t let anyone’s doubt in their mission stop them:

“We just started doing dumpster dives and building relationships with the food shops to take their leftover food to homeless shelters. And people followed suit as they saw our effort and the number of shops we work with.”

About 25-40 people comes to ACU every Saturday to enjoy a free meal made by Taste Before You Waste.

Dumpster diving

On Friday, some of the volunteers for Taste Before You Waste went out to collect the food in various dumpsters behind various supermarkets around Utrecht. This time an extraordinary amount of fruit was saved from the trash. This meant that the fruit went into three out of five dishes cooked for today’s dinner.

The doors opened at 19.10. The volunteers lined up, getting ready to serve the food for the attendees. The now twenty-nine-year-old Francesca Ali’ stepped up onto a chair to welcome everyone who had showed up and to introduce the event:

“We have events almost every day of the week to provide people with free food. Food that would otherwise have been wasted. We corporate with different supermarkets and for this event we cooked this free meal from trash. So much perfectly good food is thrown out every day, and we are here to do what we can to minimize the amount of edible food wasted.”

The target group of these specific Saturday dinners is everybody. On other days it’s the homeless shelter, but at these dinners Taste Before You Waste wants to show that everybody can eat it and everybody can reduce food waste.

About The Author

Sofie Märcher

Sofie Märcher is an adventurous and curious journalism student who aspires to enact change with her work. Born in the small town of Rødding, Denmark, Sofie spent the last few years traveling the world. After visiting 29 countries in 5 continents, Sofie began studying journalism at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus, Denmark. In her free time, Sofie enjoys pole dancing and reading - mainly books that deal with topics of identity. Passionate about the environment, Sofie aims to use her journalistic ability to explore the complex relationship between it and human culture. Aside from - and at times, together with - the environment, Sofie hopes to shine a light on stories of human, queer, and women’s rights.