‘Mandatory happy’ with food and friends in The Hague city oasis

The association Ons Eten Den Haag is committed to a sustainable food association in the city. This involves much more than locally grown vegetables on the plate. ‘Food provides opportunities for all the major crises we are currently facing.’

Sarah-Mie Luyckx

A bit grumpy, people from The Hague can usually do that too. But within the fence of StadsOase Spinozahof, one of the members of Ons Eten Den Haag, there is no room for this, says administrator Marianne Edixhoven. Anyone who enters the gate of the green neighborhood garden on Repelaerstraat, in the middle of the densely populated Stationswijk, is ‘compulsorily happy’. And if you still want to whine, just call his or her mom.

“We want to empower people; appeal to their positive energy”, explains Liane Lankreijer, who was one of the founders of the Food Association in The Hague. Together with Edixhoven, she drinks tea at a long covered picnic table at the back of the Spinozahof, where it shouldn’t be difficult to feel comfortable. Plenty of fruit and vegetables are grown in the thirty individual gardens and the larger communal garden. There are guinea pigs to cuddle in, and the pond is inhabited by fish and ducks. In short: the self-proclaimed urban oasis lives up to its name.

But Spinozahof is not just a ‘sweet, stand-alone initiative’, says Lankreijer. “This is an already realized part of the future,” she says. The jury of Fidelity‘s Sustainable 100 rewards the initiative with place 95 in the 2022 ranking.

Lankreijer: “Food is so much more than food on the plate because it provides opportunities for the global crises we are currently facing. The community garden makes people healthier thanks to products that come from healthy soil and thus contain many more important nutrients. Social contacts flourish, which helps against loneliness. And there is awareness of the importance of locally grown food. We need to move towards a completely new food system with far less climate impact. For what we eat now, we need three times Holland.”

There is more going on at the resort

Although planted and harvested with much love, the small neighborhood garden is not nearly enough to satisfy the mouths of the Spinozahof friends. But there is more going on at the resort. For example, on Wednesdays, the vegetable packages from Lekker Nassûh are distributed, with organically grown products from farmers in the region. And on Saturdays there is invariably a Spinozlunch, where on average around forty residents sit down to a buffet. The fixed formula: everyone brings something homemade, which is supplemented by the kitchen team: the group of volunteers who cook with ingredients from the garden and the leftovers from Lekker Nassûh. Which also puts ‘hot item’ food waste on the map.

Founded at the end of 2019, The Hague Food Association now has around sixty organizations, often with a large following. Lankreijer: “Our member base is very diverse. In addition to food education and food banks, we also have catering entrepreneurs who turn out to be surprisingly progressive. For example, the Grote Markt with six establishments in the city is such a pioneer.”

Our Food acts as a kind of breeding ground for them. “Just like with plants”, clarifies Edixhoven. “A lot still needs to be done for a sustainable and robust new food system. For example, if we want to go from forty to a hundred urban farming sites in The Hague, we need to come together and inspire each other.”

The municipality is an indispensable actor here. Lankreijer: “It is necessary that we work together with her, and also with the province. It is a shame if a municipal official works behind his desk with politics to fight loneliness in the city, without being involved in what is already is good in this area in Spinozahof, among others. It is also important that we get the necessary money and resources for these kinds of initiatives, which otherwise go to some project office.”

The Hague Food Council

In order to avoid the municipality having to sit together with numerous parties, at the beginning of this year Ons Eten created The Hague’s Food Council, following the example of a number of other big cities, with 25 diverse experts from its ranks. The Food Council has already achieved success, reports Lankreijer. “At the end of September, the brand new city council announced in the municipal agreement that it wanted to update the city’s current food strategy – a plan from 2016 with a particular focus on its own purchasing policy and food education – in consultation with organizations and residents. of The Hague. Until now, there has been far too little and too fragmented attention in the municipal policy areas for the opportunities that food provides for various problems. But now the college has sent a clear signal that it wants a much more comprehensive food policy.”

The municipality’s commitment can also be a hope for StadsOase Spinozahof. The permission to use the building site, which has been neglected for years, owned by the housing company Staedion, expires at the end of 2024.

Edixhoven: “In the seventeenth century, when the philosopher Spinoza lived around the corner, this was already a garden. And at that time, kitchen gardening was taking place on the Plein near the Binnenhof. During the bike tours organized by Ons Eten from Spinozahof for the past three years, we visit such places to make it clear that the city was once built around food. We’re not going to go back to that, but it helps people realize that there’s more than just supermarket shelves.”

The green location, in steps

Fidelity presents: the fourteenth Sustainable 100. Today the numbers are 100 to 76, of which number 95 is highlighted. Further explanation about these 25 projects can be read online.

The Top 25 will be announced on Thursday 6 October from 20:30 at the Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. It can also be followed online. The following day, October 7, the entire list is presented, the top 100 online at Trouw.nl and the top 25 in a special magazine with the newspaper.

Also read:

Share platform for vegetable gardeners shows the power from below. “Your walnuts for my strawberries?”

Last year’s number 100, the sharing platform for kitchen gardeners ‘Vers uit de Tuin’, shows the power from below.

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