The Nijlen groedsel cupboard is followed in Hallaar: “Central point for sharing food with those who need it” (Heist-op-den-Berg)

Following Minneke De Ridder’s initiative in Nijlen, Kitty Vander Vliet recently started a vegetable cabinet in Hallaar. © André Verhoeven

Hallaar, Nijlen

Following the example of the Nijlen seed throw from former MP for N-VA Minneke De Ridder, Kitty Vander Vliet has now also started such an initiative in Hallaar (Heist-op-den-Berg). What is greetyou speculate. It is a contraction of ‘free’ and ‘food’. Donors can bring all kinds of food and basic products such as sunscreen or sanitary napkins to the lockers. People who need it, in turn, can take things out.

Kristof Van Rompaey

Nijlen Minneke De Ridder opened her groedsel cabinet in Nijlen about two years ago. Meanwhile, about 65 families use it with varying regularity. “The location and the concept are already well known in Nijlen,” she says. “Residents who have something left over, or who have grown something themselves, also know where to find us, just like the local traders. Recently, one case brought in a profit before they closed for the holidays for two weeks.”


There are all sorts of reasons why a person might get to the point of starvation. “For example, there are people who miss out on OCMW because they earn too much while still in debt,” says Minneke. “Unlike CPAS or food banks, we do not ask for documents or stamps, and we do not ask anyone to reveal his or her private situation. I understand somewhere that it has to happen to such bodies, but at the same time it is also very degrading. We assume sincerity and honesty: He who asks for food will still be hungry.”

In Nijlen, around 65 families now rely on Minneke De Ridder's vegetable cupboard with alternating regularity.

In Nijlen, around 65 families now rely on Minneke De Ridder’s vegetable cupboard with alternating regularity. © Dirk Vertommen

Nijlen groedselkast also attracts residents from outside the municipality. One of them was Kitty Vander Vliet. “Two years ago I had to resort to Minneke’s cupboard myself,” she explains. “I got cancer, and at the same time my husband had much less work due to corona. As a couple with a property, we were not eligible for food assistance due to excessive incomes. In the meantime, we’re back on top. Minneke’s initiative has helped us enormously with that.”

Beautiful and poignant

Minneke and Kitty discussed the lack of such initiatives in the region. Kitty tied the knot about two months ago. Her closet in Hallaar is now entering its second week. In that short time, more than twenty families have already signed up. “You can feel that the theme ‘poverty among working people’ is becoming more and more popular. I also fear that it will only get worse,’ says Kitty. “At the same time, I have a hard time with the fact that a lot of food is still thrown away. Such a cabinet can therefore only benefit the community. Every little bit helps.”

Meanwhile, the cupboard in Hallaar is about to be full.

Meanwhile, the cupboard in Hallaar is about to be full. “It’s nice to see how smoothly the delivery is delivered, but at the same time it’s boring to see how quickly the pickup goes again,” says Kitty. © André Verhoeven

Meanwhile, the delivery of food in Hallaar is also running quite smoothly. “I have someone who helps me lobby shops and individuals,” says Kitty. “I also turn to local farmers to put any surplus food in the cupboard. Last week we received an offer for fresh meals from a sandwich shop. Within an hour everything was gone. It is nice to see how smoothly the delivery takes place, but at the same time it is boring to see how quickly the collection takes place again.”

Gigantic result

Kitty plans to follow Minneke’s successful concept as closely as possible. Minneke is very happy that her initiative is being followed. “The ultimate goal is, of course, that every municipality must have a vegetable cabinet. It is already a very nice step in the right direction,” she says. “The concept is simple and gives a huge result for a minimal investment. In the meantime, I hear that it is also being talked about in Lier.”

Nijlen and Heist groedselkasten each have their own page on Facebook. Like Nijlen’s, Heists have been around for several years, but the Heist cabinet never came. Until then. Where the two cabinets differ somewhat, Kitty’s is less visible than Minne’s. “Because she’s on private land, I’m asking you to message me when you come over,” says Kitty. “That’s enough for me. I’m not one to think I’m entitled to stories or evidence. I’m just offering a focal point for people to share with each other.”

The Nijlen cabinet can be found in Stationssteenweg 165C. The one in Hallaar is at Molenstraat 142.

Facebook: Groedselkast Heist or Groedselkast Nijlen

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