Within the new Food Policy course we organised an excursion to an edible balcony project in The Hague organised by the grassroots organisation Gezonde Gronden (healthy soil) in collaboration with Mother Centre ‘De koffiepot‘. In the deprived neighborhood Laak Noord, with significant lower general life expectancy and life quality indicators, women from more than 50 different ethnic backgrounds find support, education and empowerment in the Mother Centre.
The centre is run by Noortje van der Kaaden who explained the students the (worldwide) concept of the Mother Centre and the history of this centre in Laak Noord, before she had to defend her centre against a major budget cut that would effectively cut the centre in half. It is only one example of the current destruction of grassroots organisations in the environmental, cultural and social sectors induced by our right-wing cabinet. Grassroots organisations such as the Mother Centre or the ‘Haags Milieu centrum’ which provide services for over 25 years are on the brink of being abolished.
Bessie Schadee of Gezonde Gronden developed the balcony project to improve knowledge and access to healthy food. She explained how the philosphy of the project rooted in the important relation between healthy soils and healthy people. The students were made aware of the far-reaching consequences of the worldwide destruction of healthy soils. During the balcony course, women learn how to grow vegetables and fruits in a low cost manner using second-hand material while healthy soil and boxes are provided by Gezonde Gronden.
Several women who participated in the course were prepared to talk to the students about their motivation and the effect this project at on their lives. In six groups students each interviewed one of the participants. They found several positive effects which illustrated the way access to home-grown food – apart from the value in and of itself – had additional social and cultural benefits.
These included empowerment through the contribution these women were making to household economics, social integration through seed exchange and cooking classes and improved knowledge on fruit and vegetables enlarging the variety of vegetables in their diets.