Our unsustainable relationship with food — particularly in the West, where, according to the FAO, an incredible one third of all food is wasted — has long required urgent redressing. But it’s been this past year in particular that has starkly exposed the imbalance in our relationship with food. The Covid-19 pandemic put the world on hold. Everything from empty supermarket shelves, to exposés on colossal amounts of food waste laid bare our maddening problem with food waste, and a growing detachment from the production process.

Reassuringly, attitudes towards waste are beginning to change: food waste on such a mammoth scale is increasingly being seen as unacceptable, and in the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, people have learned to better plan, manage and cook food at home. There are many inspiring examples of social projects and technological solutions across the world that go to show just how quickly we can prevent, reduce and recycle waste if we put our minds and resources to the problem. One such project is Healthy & Affordable, an Amsterdam-based and volunteer-run initiative founded in 2013 with one goal: to reduce the amount of food being wasted in the city by transforming food surplus into affordable, healthy and pretty amazing products.

Many innovative projects in Amsterdam like Healthy & Affordable are supported by the Doughnut Coalition, which works to secure the city’s recent commitment to the Doughnut economics goal of a fully circular economy that offers everyone a fair social basis, within sustainable ecological boundaries. We spoke to Healthy & Affordable’s now former project coordinator Matthew Apping, to understand a little more about their work. “Healthy & Affordable is a project geared towards making a change in the food system – specifically to save it from being wasted – which is a major problem in our society both from a humanitarian and environmental perspective,” Matthew explained via Zoom. “Our main driver is the ambition to make a difference by spreading awareness on this topic, and to save food surplus by producing new goods, namely cooking powders, out of it.”

Cooking powder created from dehydrated mushrooms that would otherwise end up in the bin.

Changing a wasteful mindset

The Healthy & Affordable team is made up of a group of motivated individuals from many different backgrounds, united by the desire to make the planet more sustainable: “Every week we strive to save as much food as possible by cooperating with local suppliers and sellers. We make the effort to divulge information about the matter on our social platforms. The goal is to grow as much as possible, and help people realise that a lot of the food being wasted is still very tasty!” Food waste is indeed very much a problem of mindset in countries like the Netherlands. The UN notes that where 40-80% food losses in low-income countries happen at the early stages of production, in industrialised countries the most food waste occurs at later stages in the process, when it reaches supermarkets and consumers.

It’s shocking statistics like these that inspired those behind Healthy & Affordable to act: “At least one third of the world’s produce is wasted. In striking contrast, there are still two billion people living in hunger. We believe that we can make a difference to reduce the amount of food wasted which would help make our planet more sustainable, hence the reason we started this initiative in one the major European cities.”

But how does Healthy & Affordable actually work? “We want to give food a second life, and so we do it!” Matthew explains that the project takes unwanted food from markets and food suppliers, and transforms each and every bit by using a dehydration process, to then resell the otherwise wasted food as a new and affordable product. “We also work in free locations, rather than renting out a kitchen to process the food,” Matthew told us,  “The money saved on rent goes towards rather pricey biodegradable stickers, packaging, and locally made bottles.” The project’s commitment to sustainability runs through each detail, down their zero carbon bicycle deliveries. Sounds like they thought of everything, right?

When life gives you surplus fruit and veg…dehydrate them! ⁣

Inspired? Here’s how you can get involved.

From Healthy & Affordable’s perspective, changing mindsets towards food waste and enlightening people about how they can use food that’s perhaps past its sell by date, or just a funny shape is key to addressing our food problem. Need some inspiration to get you started? Check out this fantastic recipe inspiration page on Healthy & Affordable website, featuring delicious and nutritious recipes constructed entirely from their products.

Are you inspired by this article and the work that’s being done by Healthy & Affordable? We have asked the organisation how our community can get involved. The most simple way to keep up with Healthy & Affordable is to follow us via their active Instagram and Facebook pages. Learn more about their mission via their website, and feel free to reach out to the team via any of these platforms with any questions or comments about the project.

Anyone can help out at Healthy & Affordable by volunteering — they’re always happy to welcome new people. The project is always on the lookout for partners interested in helping to combat food waste. Collaborate with Healthy & Affordable as a partner here.