Food Garden Rotterdam fights back against social exclusion

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Food Garden Rotterdam, one of the INHERIT pilot projects, has three goals. “We support sustainable urban development by facilitating healthy food for everyone. No exceptions for poverty or social exclusion.” This seven-hectare learning and working garden near the Port of Rotterdam has been providing the Food Bank with fresh fruits and vegetables since 2011. They now deliver to homeless shelters as well. The garden is run by 25 enthusiastic volunteers, including many people who haven’t been able to find paid employment. They’re supported by three part-time staff members.

"We provide a kind of family, involving all sorts of groups from the local neighbourhood."

Erik Sterk, managing director of the Food Garden, says that the initiative has been so successful in attracting volunteers because the garden turns vulnerable neighbourhood residents into proud producers of delicious food. “When you’re with us, suddenly you matter,” says Sterk. “You’re not a patient or a client here. We provide a kind of family, involving all sorts of groups from the local neighbourhood. Some work on specific projects, like building a helophyte filter that uses plants to purify waste water, or composting waste.”

The garden has turned vegetable gardening into a trendier pastime by connecting with high-profile artists from the neighbourhood, such as Daan Roosegaarde. Sometimes they display their artwork in the garden. Sterk is optimistic about the continuity of the project. Materials and personnel costs currently amount to around €150,000 a year. At this point, most of the money comes from endowed foundations such as the Oranje Fonds, as well as from companies who sponsor the project. In the coming years, the Food Garden Rotterdam hopes to raise more funds for services like courses and training. The fruits and vegetables that are grown here are donated free of charge. Sterk: “If we started delivering to local restaurants or individuals, we’d have to deal with deadlines, which wouldn’t be good for our volunteers.”

More information: and INHERIT