Not a red ear – the sequel: ‘Food bank should be in Haarlemmerstraat’

Board member Paula van Kesteren is responsible for the contents of the food packages in Leiden’s food bank. (Photo: Gerry van Bakel).

“When I first started working here eight years ago, we still had a clothing corner. One day a family came in and a boy of no more than four or five years old asked his mother: can I choose a new coat? It gives me goosebumps. “Says Paula van Kesteren, board member of Food Bank Leiden and Leiderdorp.

In the podcast series Geen rooie cent – the sequel, Andy Clark and Gerry van Bakel talk to people about poverty, in this episode Paula van Kesteren from Leiden’s food bank.

Fødevarebanken has been a well-known name in Leiden and the surrounding area for fifteen years. For many, the personification of poverty. A facility that does not actually fit into a prosperous country like the Netherlands. “The food bank is emergency aid, but I see it changing,” says Paula. “We are seeing more and more people who have a job or receive benefits with all kinds of benefits, and yet fall below the poverty line. I’m afraid of that. “

Bow
Together with other volunteers, Paula makes sure that 460 households can pick up a packed lunch every week. That’s about 1,100 people, forty percent of whom are children. It makes these volunteers completely selfless, they do not get a red ear for it. “Even though we go to dinner with the board, everyone pays for their own breakfast. Nothing sticks with us. “

And in Leiden, packages are no longer assembled and distributed for a long time. The food bank is almost an ordinary supermarket, where customers walk along the shelves with a shopping basket. The difference is that there are employees everywhere who deliver the desired article. “We believe that people should be able to choose what they want to bring. It must, of course, stay within the margin. Not that anyone takes ten packets of coffee. But it always goes very well. We want to give people a real shopping feeling. ”

Without reason
The Food Bank also has rules and standards for who is eligible for assistance. These are set nationally, but local departments have some freedom of movement in how they implement this. “We’re looking at what someone needs,” Paula says. “We do this during an admission interview. Everyone who comes in here gets a package the first time. We assume that no one comes here without a reason. ”

During the corona pandemic, the pre-packaged bags of items returned for a while. And the reception room, where everyone was received with coffee and tea, was also closed at the time. A few times, a ‘drive thru’ and a city bus were also arranged to collect donations in neighborhoods. “That’s what makes it so fun to work here,” says Paula, “we are a very flexible organization. We are always trying to respond to new developments.”

But gradually the business returns to Willem Barentszstraat. And a recurring point one hears from people who go to the Food Bank is that they are ashamed. According to Paula, it should not really be necessary. “I can imagine it, because it is a stigma. But it can really happen to anyone. The people who knock on the door of the food bank come from all walks of life. Even people with a higher education ”.

rotten life
For the employees of the Food Bank, everyone is equal. “We have many sweet customers, and they also make the work here fun. But I have no favorites. I’m very aware of that. Everyone who comes here has the right to help. Also when they are sour or sour. They often have every reason to do so. They often have a bad life. And they get something here, but of course it is not always top quality. ”

Annoying experiences with angry customers are not on Paula’s retina. “I may have to turn it off, but we will not see that. People are held directly responsible for unwanted behavior. It also happens to each other.”

When it comes to the municipality’s poverty policy, Paula thinks it’s a shame that the compensation scheme has been abolished. “The 210 euros was obviously not much, but for many people it was something to close a hole. We never hear from our customers about the customized budget. Whether they are aware of it. ” The municipality naturally has limited room for maneuver when it comes to fighting poverty, Paula believes. “We have a short link. Councilors sometimes come here to help. The municipality has helped with the delivery of mouth caps and self-tests. But in general, I think people do not really understand what it is like to be poor.”

ashamed
And then Paula’s personal mission emerges. “I do a lot of the Food Bank’s ‘PR’. We had an open day recently and it was very well attended. I want to make the Food Bank accessible to everyone. That it is easy to bring donations. That you should not be ashamed that you temporarily need the Food Bank. That should be normal. I would rather be in the middle of Haarlemmerstraat with the Food Bank. ”

This was the fourth episode of Geen rooie cent – the sequel, episode # 1 was released on Monday, January 10th and can be read and listened to here. Episode # 2 was released on Tuesday, January 25th and can be read and listened to here. Episode # 3 was released on February 8 and can be read and listened to here.

The podcast series ‘Not a red cent – the sequel’ was made possible in part thanks to a financial contribution from the Leiden Media Fund.

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