‘There was a huge generosity’

Fødevarebanken’s distribution center in Rotterdam. The food banks have millions left, but expect significantly more customers.Picture ANP

The association of Dutch food banks, to which 172 food banks are affiliated, has been flooded with donations since the corona crisis, according to the recently published annual accounts for 2020. At the turn of the year, the association had more than 16 million in cash against 2.8 million a year earlier. This was offset by nearly 6 million in debt. ‘2020 was an exceptionally favorable financial year’, the board writes in the annual report.

The gifts mainly came in at the beginning of the first lockdown, says Leo Wijnbelt, president of the association. “Two thirds of our 13,000 volunteers are seniors and they were clearly vulnerable in the pandemic. Within 24 hours, almost twenty food banks and two distribution centers were forced to close. The fear was that perhaps three quarters of all food banks would be unable to “and 100,000 people would be left without food. That prospect led to many donations. It’s unique how much money the food banks have received. There was a huge amount of generosity.”

The Christmas chair

The bulk came from ‘wealthy Dutch and wealthy foundations’, according to Wijnbelt. Private individuals donated almost 2.5 million, more than six times as much as in 2019. The business community came with 3.3 million against almost 5 tons in 2019. An action from Radio 538 at the end of 2020 gave 1.3 million 6, 5 tons came in via Albert Heijn Julestollen and the Postcode Lottery gave an extra donation of 5 tons.

Just under a quarter of the money was used to keep food banks running safely, for example with protective gear for employees and supermarket coupons for customers. But there are still millions who came in with the payment reference ‘corona’, ‘Covid-19’ or ‘crisis’.

“We have discussed the destination of their donations with major donors,” says Wijnbelt. “If the vaccinations continue to go well and the pandemic ends soon, we can return the money. But we can also use it to improve our logistics structure in the next year and a half.”

“We expect that if the government stops supporting business, there will still be an economic crisis. We are preparing for a possible growth of 50 percent of our customer base, to 150,000 people per week, especially in the larger cities. For example, we need to adjust our distribution accordingly. The donors have all said: The money is primarily intended for the corona, but if there is no need for them there, they can be used to expand our customer base. ”


The association also has a grant of 4 million from Social Affairs in cash, which last year came in as a safety net in case the food banks had to get money due to the corona crisis. Thanks to this subsidy, customers with supermarket coupons were able to make their own purchases. The government has allowed food banks to keep the money in reserve if the number of customers grows so sharply that there is not enough food in stock.

In the last year, the number of people calling the food bank in the big cities has already increased by tens of thousands of percent, with the growth of 50 percent in Amsterdam being the peak. Meanwhile, the number of Amsterdamers knocking on the door is no longer growing, but neither is it declining. More than 4,700 inhabitants depend on the food bank. Nationwide, growth in 2020 was more than 7 percent.

Other charities also received more money

Food banks are not the only organizations that received multiple donations during the corona crisis. According to a spokesman for the trade association Goede Doelen Nederland, there is an increase across the board. According to the 2020 annual accounts for 83 organizations, revenues from gifts and donations increased by 4 percent to a total of 388 million euros. There are big differences between organizations. At smaller clubs, with a budget of 100,000 euros, income fell by more than 13 percent compared to 2019. “People are very involved in the work of charities,” says Margreet Plug, director of charities. “Ordinary donors have continued to faithfully support charities, and there was more space and willingness to donate online during the period when fundraisers, door-to-door fundraisers and events had to be suspended. And it’s amazing. ”

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