By Anette Mäletjärv
— When Oliver Reddy, a first-year Science major, spontaneously decided on one Friday in the middle of March to create a Facebook group “AULeftovers” for Amsterdam University College (AUC) students to share their leftover food, he had no bigger motivations behind it. Now, not even two months later, the group has more than 300 members and students perceive it as a great initiative that has helped them to reduce food waste.
“I tried to share my food and get rid of it for one holiday and there was no place to post it”, says Reddy. “I literally just made a group out of nowhere, in the academic building. I was bored, trying to procrastinate. I guess it could be useful for some people.”
Currently, the group has only one policy: all leftovers must be shared for free. Even though Reddy himself is modest about creating the group, saying he did not have larger goals behind it, students find AULeftovers very useful.
Ella Maclaughlin, a second-year Social Science major, offered a pack of gum, a can of green beans and vinegar in the group. She had bought them in her first year and the items were just taking up space in her kitchen. “Without the group, I would have probably just thrown them away when I’m moving out next year”, she says.
Similarly, Catherine Winter, a first-year Humanities major, found the group helpful when somebody left an untouched takeaway meal in the basket of her bike. “It was cold prawn tempura, which I don’t eat”, she says. “I posted it on AULeftovers and soon after, somebody took it.”
Furthermore, the group can come in handy when students prepare too much food. Francis Mocsin, a second-year Science major, said that he offered his dish, as he was about to leave town and could not finish it.
However, while Mocsin’s food was picked up within minutes and Winter’s within half an hour, Maclaughlin says that the members of the group are unreliable. Although several students contacted her about the things she offered, only one item was actually picked up. “That’s an inevitable problem, because people aren’t really committing to anything and they know that you’re not going to eat that food anyways, so they’re not reliable in general”, she says.
Nevertheless, Maclaughlin appreciates the impact the group can have on students’ habits regarding food waste. “Because of the group, people think about it more and actually participate”, she says. Lennart Tiller, a second-year Social Science major, says that the issue with food waste is mainly about people’s habits.
According to The Netherlands Nutrition Centre Foundation, in 2016, in the Netherlands, 41 kilograms of food was wasted per person on average. Maclaughlin says that AUC students tend to be more environmentally conscious. However, Tiller says that they still waste too much food.
Michiel van Drunen, an Environmental Sciences professor at AUC, explains that food makes up a big part of our ecological footprint. “People tend to focus on packaging a lot, but most of the environmental impacts are in the food itself”, he says. “We can make tremendous steps, if we waste less.”
Van Drunen says that in order to prevent food waste, students should learn how to plan grocery shopping. Mocsin agrees, saying that a lack of knowledge about expiration of food often results in throwing away stuff that is past the due date but still edible. Tiller suggests going to the Dappermarkt or the Albert Cuypmarkt at six or seven in the evening, to get hold of cheap products that would have otherwise been thrown away. Furthermore, Mocsin and Winter bring out composting as an important aspect, so even when food gets thrown away, the nutrients are still being used for the soil.
Reddy says that shared meals are also a good way to reduce food waste. He suggests creating a free dinner Facebook group. Even though there is Sharood, he says that Facebook is an easier platform to use.
In the AULeftovers group, Reddy is planning to apply a rule that the first commenter gets the product. He also wants to promote the group a bit more. He says that he feels the group has undeveloped potential, as students are not posting on a daily basis. Fellow students and Reddy’s tutor have suggested that improving AULeftovers and creating a possible new group could serve as a community project. However, Reddy will be doing an internship. So, he hopes that there is another student at AUC, who will commit their community project in realizing the potential of those ideas in order to help reduce food waste.
Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.