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Discovering the FreeCafe: "A free dinner made from leftovers, with love"

Date:28 November 2023
Author:Green Office
Author - Katrine Stokke
Author - Katrine Stokke

Ever found yourself tossing out forgotten groceries? The FreeCafe in Groningen not only rescues unsold market leftovers but also turns them into communal feasts. In this blog, Rina explores how the FreeCafe transforms food waste into a sense of community and fulfillment. It's more than a free dinner—it's a meaningful solution to a global challenge.

We've all been there—tossing out food because we overestimated our appetite while grocery shopping or simply forgetting about that bag of vegetables in the back of the fridge. Food waste feels almost inevitable on an individual level but the scale grows exponentially when we are investigating supermarkets or even farmers markets. As individuals, we tend to feel powerless when it comes to food waste to this extent, but the FreeCafe in Groningen has made it their mission to change that! They offer a space for volunteers to rescue food from the farmers market in Groningen that would otherwise go to waste, turning it into delicious meals.

What is the FreeCafe?

Every week on Tuesday and Saturday, a dedicated group heads to Vismarkt in Groningen to collect unsold market leftovers. On Sunday, they gather again to transform these ingredients into a buffet, free for anyone to enjoy. The concept centres on reducing food waste while fostering a sense of community and shared responsibility. After everyone gathers to savour the prepared buffet, some dedicated volunteers take on the task of tidying up, keeping the spirit of community alive even after finishing eating. When I stumbled upon this opportunity for a free dinner and to help reduce food waste, I decided to check it out myself!

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Cutting radishes

My Experience

Located in the western part of the city, the FreeCafe operates from the kitchen of an old school building. Stepping inside, I instantly felt a radiating warmth and a welcoming atmosphere. After a brief kitchen tour, it was "full anarchy”—we could either create our own meal from the available ingredients or contribute to someone else’s vision of a meal by preparing vegetables or fruits for the recipe. I decided to grab some radishes and got to cutting—a task that turned out to be surprisingly meditative! I have never sliced so many radishes in my life. From 2 pm to 6 pm, we chopped vegetables, cooked various meals, and got to know each other. While staying for the whole four hours was not mandatory, I decided to stick around to eat from the buffet myself. At 6 pm, we brought everything out. I was very excited, hungry, and proud of what we cooked. Witnessing so many people enjoy the meals we had created and eating them myself definitely made the time and effort worthwhile! 

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My experience at the FreeCafe left me with a deep appreciation for the efforts behind the scenes in their kitchen. They do a great job at fostering an inviting atmosphere while combating food waste in a manner that is accessible to many. It’s not just a free dinner–it’s an experience leaving you with a sense of belonging and genuine fulfilment for contributing to something impactful. In a period where food waste presents a significant challenge, the FreeCafe stands tall with its innovative approach and close community. I left not only with a full stomach but also with a new belief in our potential to make a meaningful difference.

Visit them yourself:

Hey there! I'm Rina (Katrine), I'm 21 years old and I've been studying psychology for about 1.5 years. I’ve been passionate about sustainability for as long as I can remember and combining this with my interest in psychology feels like a natural fit for me. After moving out of my childhood home, I quickly realized how tricky it can be to act environmentally friendly as a student. So, I am excited to share my perspectives and experiences on navigating this journey in a more mindful way.