The Vital Together Box

How do you continue your good work as a buddy during the corona crisis? Three first-year students of Nutrition and Dietetics created the Vital Together Box, which contains healthy recipes, ingredients to prepare the dish and physical exercises to stay fit. “Bringing about a big change in someone’s life with something so small fills you with happiness and satisfaction.”

Due to the corona crisis they could not drop by their buddies. But Lisa Sloendregt, Esther Overdam and Sunsearay Winter did not leave it at that. They still wanted to do something for the lonely seniors. Every week they would bring them the Vital Together Box and contact their buddies by phone in order to motivate them to exercise, improve their vitality and, last but not least, just to have a chat.


“At the beginning of the academic year we had to pick a challenge,” explains Lisa. “When I saw the presentation of the Buddy Netwerk foundation, I was immediately inspired. It’s a fantastic project where you can really help others. It’s not a lot of effort to drop by, but it means the world to someone who is elderly and lonely.”

Hamburger over salad

The Buddy Netwerk foundation is aimed at helping seniors and lonely people who are chronically ill or have mobility issues. Together with their buddies they make nice little trips, which encourage them to go outside more. Students who participate in the Vital Together project by the Nutrition and Dietetics degree programme are committed to helping their buddies to feel more vital and move more. Sunsearay: “While having a nice chat, we would introduce the topic of healthy eating. For example, encourage them to choose a salad over a hamburger.”


Students visited their buddies once a week. Lisa had tea with a lady from The Hague, Sunsearay went hiking with a woman who was afraid to go outside on her own, and Esther, coincidentally, was assigned a family member. “My buddy turned out to be my grandpa’s brother. His wife had been ill for a long time and he lost contact with his family. After his wife died, he found himself completely alone. We went hiking, attended a game of bingo and did grocery shopping together.”


A month and a half after the start of the project, the corona crisis began. The contact between buddies was reduced to a weekly phone call. Esther: “It was very difficult for my buddy, who got really attached to me. I was the only one to visit him. That was really sad. But there was also a good side to it, as it gave him a push to call his relatives. In the end it worked out fine.”

The idea

And then they had the idea. Lisa: “We were told to come up with a replacement project. After a brainstorming session, we realised we had three goals: healthier eating, more exercise and feeling less lonely. Our box brings the three together with a recipe, the necessary ingredients, and an illustrated instruction for the exercises.” The idea was taken up by the Buddy Netwerk foundation. During the corona crisis all volunteers made the Vital Together Box for their buddies.