Fresh fruit and vegetables for Arnhem residents on a budget at ‘De Blauwe Tomaat’

The cheerfully painted SRV car from ‘De Blauwe Tomaat’ carefully squeezes between the parked cars and the fish stall on the market square at Geitenkamp. It is Wednesday morning and the autumn sun is shining. The vegetables are displayed and customers can come. Volunteer Teun with a smile is ready to weigh the Brussels sprouts and chicory for the customers. He helps fill a bike bag or shopping bag. He even walks to a car if necessary.

By Gabrielle Zeevenhoven

Loes van der Meulen (1979), creator of the format for ‘The Blue Tomato’, is an entrepreneur with a mission. The idea for the greengrocer’s shop for the smaller fair arose during a trip to England. There was a supermarket there with substandard food, crooked cucumbers, pale Brussels sprouts, small apples. During a pleasant evening with a friend with a glass of wine and some philosophizing, the idea was born that something like this should also be possible in Arnhem. Healthy food at a low price for people on a tight budget. Now, 4 years later, the SRV wagon from ‘De Blauwe Tomaat’ is a permanent part of the Arnhem districts, especially in the districts where the money is traded. Everyone can do their shopping at ‘De Blauwe Tomaat’, but many of the customers have less to spend. And in addition to the low price, there is also appreciation for the friendly atmosphere, the personal attention and the conversation among themselves. There is always a thermos with coffee or tea ready.

Volunteers are always welcome, especially a driver

Everyone can help as a volunteer. Bag vegetables, pay order on a notepad with a pen, arrange payment. Pin or cash, both are possible. There are boxes of leftover bread from baker Ton van Otterloo. Many of the customers go home with an extra loaf of bread. 3 loaves of bread for one euro. This is not to be underestimated in these times of rising energy prices and inflation. Children get a tangerine or an apple. De Blauwe Tomaat has room for volunteers of all kinds; people with a distance from the labor market, as a learning-work course for the unemployed and for those with status. The most important thing is that, as a volunteer, you are aware of your fellow human beings, so that you also help someone who has a little more difficulty filling the shopping bag. And a driver is always needed to maneuver the big SRV through the streets of Arnhem. There is currently a vacant position as a driver.

Food with a place for a small price

Loes: “What mainly worried me was that, on the one hand, food is thrown away in our society because it is close to the date, or has a place while children go to school without breakfast. I just couldn’t sleep. Even with little money you should be able to eat healthy and less food is wasted. All fruit and vegetables that are not sold at the market go to a couple of hungry pigs in Oosterbeek, so they are not adopted for the sausage.

Gift for fruit or vegetables

In addition to the location in various locations in Arnhem, there are other activities that the ‘De Blauwe Tomaat’ foundation is involved in. Firstly, the SRV car visits various locations in Drie Gasthuizen. Elderly residents, often with a form of dementia, can buy fruit and vegetables. In addition, it is possible for companies to buy a fruit subscription. This means that every week there is a box of fresh fruit at the workplace. This also sponsors the price of the vegetables for the customers in the market. A company can order a fruit basket for a sick employee. This will then be delivered by Loes’ team. You can also order a fruit or vegetable voucher for someone you know, but also for someone you don’t know. And finally, Loes can be invited to an entrepreneurial talk, where she can explain her idea about ‘The Blue Tomato’ and the model for social entrepreneurship.

Volunteers are wanted

An organization like ‘De Blauwe Tomaat’, which works with volunteers, is constantly in motion, and there is plenty to do in a cozy organization where you get to know each other and meet other people. Volunteers come and some go again. They move on to paid work or they continue to do something else. That’s why we always need people who want to help. At the moment, Loes is mainly looking for someone who wants to drive the SRV car. So retired or on-the-go driver, sign up.

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