Navigating Leuven's Food Scene: A personal guide to finding sustainable and healthy food
Are you in search of a quick and practical guide to help you explore and navigate Leuven's diverse foodscape? In this personal blog, we will hear from Jan, a sustainable food enthusiast and advocate with over a decade of experience studying and working in Leuven. Jan’s passion for sustainable and healthy food extends from his personal life to his professional pursuits.
In this guide, Jan shares his top 10 places and initiatives for sourcing and savoring sustainable, healthy, local food. By the end of it, you will have the tools and insights to shop and eat in a healthy, sustainable, and local manner, and hopefully, be able to find everything you need.
Enjoy discovering these remarkable places and initiatives and the wealth of offerings they bring to the table. Become an engaged, caring, and responsible consumer, making mindful, health-conscious, and sustainable food choices.
Let's embark on a journey together to make our food consumption more sustainable and healthier!
1. Thrive Sustainably – platform for local organic shops and those who care
Are you ready to explore Thrive Sustainably, a platform born out of my journey during my master's in Sustainable Development? This journey began while working at Biotoop, a local, organic shop in Leuven. It not only provided me with practical knowledge and experience but also revealed opportunities to enhance the local organic shopping experience. This led to the development of a groundbreaking multi-vendor platform—the first of its kind in Belgium!
Our mission is to contribute to a necessary transition towards more sustainable and healthier consumption. We achieve this by promoting, stimulating, and facilitating sustainable food choices, making it easier for you to consume more sustainably, consciously and healthier.
On Shop Thrive Sustainably, our online marketplace, you will find a curated selection of sustainable, healthy, organic, ecological, and fair trade food and supplements. You can conveniently order these products online, pick them up at the shop, or choose sustainable delivery via the local platform wij.leveren.
But Thrive Sustainably is about more than just simplifying shopping. In addition to offering a marketplace for sustainable shops and conscious shoppers, we focus on personal, lived, and social sustainability. Our website hosts a variety of blogs dedicated to sustainable food consumption because we believe sustainability should be a personal and lived experience, not just abstract numbers, emissions or restrictions. And what better place to start than with something as personal, lived and routine as food and shopping?
The platform may be particularly beneficial for those who want to make informed, sustainable food choices but may not be familiar with Leuven's food and shopping landscape or may not speak Dutch or French (our platform and product info are also available in English).
We look forward to 'thriving sustainably' with you in Leuven!
Biotoopis not only one of the oldest local organic shops in Leuven but also the first shop featured on Shop Thrive Sustainably. Its story began in 1988 as an initiative of a dozen producers from the Leuven region. Since then, it has evolved into a bio-diverse shop offering a wide array of organic and ecological products.
At Biotoop, you will find a diverse range of products, including organic fruits, vegetables, cheese (including vegan cheese), foodstuffs, food supplements, personal care and maintenance products, and more. Most of the products available are vegetarian and many of them are vegan; there is also a gluten-free section.
Biotoop is conveniently located in the wider city center, at Zwartzusterstraat 16, next to the Groot Begijnhof (Big Beguinage). It enjoys easy accessibility by various modes of transportation: by bike, by car (with parking available across the Dijle river), and by bus (bus stop Heilige Hartkliniek, bus number 2).
Don't miss the opportunity to discover this sustainable gem along the banks of the Dijle. Visit Biotoop and explore its diverse range of organic and eco-conscious products.
3. De Wikke Farm Shop
If you have not already heard about or visited the Abdij van Park (Park Abbey) in Heverlee, it's an absolute must-see. This tranquil destination offers a breath of fresh air, a connection with nature, and a charming countryside atmosphere, complete with grazing cows.
While you are soaking in the natural beauty, make sure not to overlook De Wikke Farm Shop. This delightful shop is situated within one of the abbey's barns. Here, you can discover an array of fresh organic produce, sourced directly from the surrounding fields. In addition, De Wikke offers a selection of bread and pastries, dairy products, refreshing drinks, and a variety of artisanal local foodstuffs.
What makes De Wikke even more special is that it is not just a farm shop; it is also an organic horticulture project of the social enterprise Wonen en Werken (Living and Working). By shopping here, you are not only treating yourself to quality goods but also supporting a meaningful cause.
If you are a fan of packaging-free shopping, then you will be content when you discover Content. This zero waste cooperative shop is located at the back of Leuven’s train station.
At Content, you will find your daily supply of local organic fruits, grains, vegetables, dairy products, drinks, and fresh bread—all with the option of reusable packaging or without any packaging at all. Choosing less packaging not only means reducing waste but also leads to lower costs, less pollution, and a more efficient use of raw materials.
Needless to say, don't forget to bring along your trusty reusable bags, jars, and containers. They are your ticket to a sustainable and waste-free shopping experience at Content.
Färm is a cooperative network of organic low-waste shops committed to promoting organic, local and ethical food production and consumption. By shopping at Färm, you are also supporting independent producers and family businesses while avoiding support for multinational agricultural conglomerates. Another Färm's notable feature is its extensive selection of bulk products, allowing you to minimize packaging waste and shop more sustainably.
There is a Färm shop right in the heart of the city center, situated at Bondgenotenlaan 133, one of the main shopping streets in Leuven. It is an excellent destination for those seeking eco-conscious and ethically sourced food options.
6. Korst Bakery
If you have a passion for freshly baked, local artisanal sourdough bread and delicious pastries, your quest ends here with Korst Bakery. They are here to fulfill your bakery wishes.
What sets Korst apart is their partnership with BoerEnCompagnie (see #8), which underscores their commitment to using local and seasonal products. They forge a strong connection between the farmer, the baker, and the miller, ensuring that every bite tells a story of quality and sustainability.
You can find Korst Bakery nestled in Hal 5, the historic railway halls located at Diestsesteenweg 104 in Kessel Lo. These halls house a diverse array of local, sustainable organizations and businesses. The great news is that you don't need to venture far to savor their fresh delights. Korst's offerings are also available in select restaurants and shops, including De Wikke (see #3) and Content (see #4). So, whether you visit Hal 5 or one of these other fine establishments, you're in for a treat with Korst Bakery's delectable creations.
7. Rondou Butcher
While meat and sustainability are often seen as opposing forces, they need not be when you choose responsibly-sourced meat, such as that offered by Rondou. This butcher shop provides a solution that aligns meat consumption with sustainability principles.
At Rondou, you can purchase high-quality, ecological, healthy, and natural meat, all sourced with a strong emphasis on animal welfare and the environment. Notably, their commitment extends to their packaging, which is both biodegradable and compostable, reducing environmental impact.
Located in the heart of the city, you can find Rondou at Pensstraat 5. It is an excellent destination for those seeking meat products that prioritize ethical and ecological values, contributing to a more sustainable food landscape.
While taking a leisurely stroll, jogging or biking around Park Abbey, make sure not to overlook BoerEnCompagnie—a dedicated cooperative farm deeply committed to sustainable farming practices. They cultivate a diverse range of vegetables, grains, and fruits, and raise livestock for meat and dairy. What sets them apart is their dedication to closing cycles, where waste from one activity becomes a valuable raw material for another—a true testament to sustainable farming.
What is more, BoerEnCompagnie thrives on the principle of CSA (Community Shared Agriculture). It is a cornerstone of their farming model, fostering a beautiful synergy between the community and the farm itself. The community supports the farm, and in return, the farm provides fresh produce. There is nothing quite like the experience of harvesting your own food directly from the field—it does not get any fresher than that. Plus, you have the assurance of knowing exactly where your food comes from, all while enjoying the great outdoors and staying physically active. That is truly hitting five birds with one stone.
When you're in town shopping for all that sustainable, healthy, and local food, you might want to take a moment to unwind, savor a cup of tea or coffee, and indulge in some organic sandwiches or a delicious slice of cake. For such a delightful interlude, Exki on Rector de Somerplein 8, a square just adjacent to Grote Markt, is the perfect choice.
At Exki, you will discover an enticing array of beverages, as well as a mouthwatering selection of primarily vegan and vegetarian options. Whether you are in the mood for salads, sandwiches, soup, pies, or cakes, Exki has you covered with delicious, wholesome selection.
What sets Exki apart is its spacious seating area and tranquil, relaxed ambiance. While it may get a bit busier around lunchtime, you will still find a welcoming spot to sit down, unwind, and embark on a flavorful journey through real, nourishing food.
10. Roots&Fruits: Leuven Local Food Connection – expats going local
Roots&Fruits is an amazing initiative driven by two expats, Laurel (cheesemaker at BoerEnCompagnie) and Maya (sustainability writer). Their shared passion revolves around the exploration of local sustainable food, initiatives, places, and activities within the broader Leuven region.
By joining Roots&Fruits, you can set out on a journey to discover local farms and food producers, all while supporting sustainable agriculture and artisanal craftsmanship. In their Facebook group, you can share your ideas, tips, and experiences, contributing to the creation of a stronger and more vibrant local food community.
Beyond their local engagement, Laurel and Maya are actively involved in the international community. You can find them in Facebook groups, sharing valuable advice and insights. They also extend their hospitality by hosting cooking workshops at the International House Leuven, fostering connections and cultural exchange.
Roots&Fruits embodies the spirit of global and local collaboration, making it a wonderful resource for anyone passionate about sustainable food and community building in Leuven.
A final note
In closing, it is essential to recognize that food holds a profound impact on our health and the health of our planet. It is a universal necessity and a source of our vitality. As the saying goes, "we are what we eat," and our well-being emanates from within. Unfortunately, these fundamental truths do not always shape our relationship with food and its place in our lives.
Food has found itself caught in the web of an unsustainable, unhealthy, and unjust economic system where money and profit take precedence as the ultimate measures of value. The food industry and big supermarkets have created and perpetuated the notion that food should be attractive, tasty, cheap and easily accessible, effectively diminishing its true value. This is a grave misconception. The value of food should be rooted in its origins, production methods, distribution, quality, and composition.
In any endeavour, strong and healthy relationships form the bedrock of anything genuine, functional, and sustainable. I hope this article serves you not only as a gateway to explore Leuven’s sustainable food options, but also as a stepping stone towards cultivating and nurturing a healthy relationship with food.
Here you can also read about Jan’s journey to Thrive Sustainably.
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