Yasmina loves cooking and baking. She worked as a professional sushi chef for five years and brought a treat to the interview: freshly baked fluffy vegan brownie. “Every time I brought my food to the university, people kept saying: ‘Oh my god, did you really make that?!’, ‘Where do you find the time?’, ’I wish I knew how to cook’. And that inspired me”, says Yasmina about the moment the idea for Freshtable was born. “I started by asking how much students spent on an average meal. The prices were ridiculous, around 15 to 20 euros. I wanted to help these students by providing them with an affordable option that would also be sustainable.”

How does it work?

Freshtable is not a typical food delivery service. It offers weekly meal planning. You get your order delivered in two parts, containing three meals per delivery. “Everything needs to be good and fresh. This doesn’t mean that we don’t make pizza or pasta, but it has to be made from nutritious products. We don’t add any additives or any weird ingredients that we can’t pronounce.”

Yasmina added that, knowing how much international students can miss their home, she tries to include a variety of cuisines in their menu. “We offer Moroccan dishes, Syrian, South African, Chinese, Indonesian, etc.” All the meals are delivered via campus pick-up points. Due to the corona measures, Freshtable is temporarily running a contactless delivery service. “Normally we don’t have a home delivery service because it isn’t sustainable. But also because we value human interaction. Our goal is not just to provide food, but also the story that comes with it. You can come and talk to the people who have prepared your meal, ask questions and so on.”

Her own story is this: “I am a Dutch Moroccan. As a child of migrants, you were always considered to be different or one of the outcasts. I always had that urge to make sure that other people would never feel the same way. My heart lies where I can make an impact, contribute to society and help them improve their lives. This is something that my parents taught me by example. I remember that we had a family from Libya living in our home in the early nineties. It always sparked my interest and I’ve also always worked with refugees in volunteering programmes.” Yasmina decided to combine all the causes and set the three goals for Freshtable: sustainability, affordable meals and social inclusion.

Image credit: Milena Chopova

Employing refugees

“The refugees who have entered the country in recent years have a high level of intelligence, but only 7 percent find a job. They almost always perform under their qualification level. So why not capitalise on that and help each other?” To gather funding and start the business, Yasmina addressed the EU solidarity corps, which provided Freshtable with a small subsidy. “If you’ve got a good idea to help society, not necessarily refugees, but the elderly for example, you might be entitled to get a small amount of money from the organisation. You only have to gather five likeminded people and fill out a lot of forms”.

Freshtable currently has twelve employees, six refugees and six students and has already served 43 meals. The aim is to double the existing customer base within the next six months, as well as help at least twenty refugees obtain valuable work experience and social integration.

Each Freshtable team member works at all levels of the organisation. “I didn’t want refugees to only do the production work, cook and go home. So, we started offering internships, mentoring programmes and even giving Dutch classes”. At the moment, each Freshtable employee gets to mentor a few refugees. “Although Freshtable offers opportunities to others, I feel like it’s a win-win for both of us. We’ve actually learned so much from them regarding many aspects of business, their valuable experiences and their outlook on life.”

You can get your weekly subscription via Freshtable’s website. Each meal box is under 30 euros, halal, and vegan options are also available.

For more information, follow Freshtable on Instagram.