‘You really hope we become redundant’

One last rescue in financial difficulties. It is the Food Bank for many people. They also prefer not to stand in line for the problem. Nevertheless, the queue keeps getting longer. A few hundred Utrecht residents from the Overvecht district depend on the Food Bank Package each week. The food bank can hardly keep up with the influx. The situation is slowly getting harder and harder to foresee – especially now that the closure of the beloved Fødevarebank store is towering over our heads.

It is typically June weather. The sun is shining and every now and then a cloud passes by. It’s slowly getting busier in the De Boog neighborhood center. People are already waiting and there is a queue at the door. They greet each other at the meeting, and some grab a chair to sit in the sun for a while. It looks pretty cozy, but many would rather not sit here. That is the line for the Food Bank. This location on Gambiadreef in Overvecht is having a hard time, like many other places in Utrecht.

For most issue days, the closer Fødevarebanken’s participants get to the door, the more tense the atmosphere. Since 10.30 this morning, volunteers have been preparing the bags for distribution. Elizabeth Kooistra and Lydia Klomp go between the activities to coordinate and to keep an eye on whether everything is going well. In an hour and a half, they work hard to sort, count and distribute everything that comes in on large roll containers. In one room, the volunteer bags are filled with non-perishable products and with fresh meat, fish or vegetarian ingredients – the participants can also indicate here whether they want e.g. halal products.

The vegetables and fruit are shared with the bread in another room. Paper forms show how much everyone will be entitled to, depending on what is provided. The goods being distributed come from a distribution center on Arkansasdreef. “But volumes are declining,” Klomp says. “And that while the number of participants is still growing.”

queue

“There are now almost a hundred families in the Food Bank at Gambiadreef,” says Kooistra. In fact, there is only room for sixty. “The families can consist of one person, but also of eight family members. Mothers often come with small children – so does the pram. Usually, people will open their bag and see what they are getting. What then arises is a growing queue. At least it’s out the door. People are afraid to go home empty-handed. ”

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Elizabeth Kooistra regularly sees how crowds in the problem can cause frustration among participants and volunteers. “In general, the rule is that ten people every quarter get time to pick up their belongings. But often there are also periods of time with thirteen or fourteen people, for there is no other option. The first place must be handed in empty before 14.30. This way, you do not have time or space left for a little relaxation and a chat. Now the weather is good so it is no problem to stand in line outside. But another time it rains, and then people have to wait in the rain. We have nothing we can do for them. It puts more and more stress on the volunteers and the participants. Participants feel humbled by the release. “Klomp responds to this:” With the corona, it was even more dramatic. Back then, we sometimes had queues for an hour and a half. “

sugar and fat

The food bank at Gambiadreef has a little more room for fresh produce on this day of release, but there is almost always too little of non-perishable products. Rice and macaroni are actually never included in the packages. The durable packages actually contain primarily sugar and fat. A glance at the bag and it is clear that it is not the healthiest of groceries. Chips, sodas and nuts. Some bags also contain a packet of coffee.

“It does not have all the things you need,” Melanie says. She is one of the participants in the food bank. She has been here for two years, because as a single mother of five children, it is not easy to make ends meet. But she thinks the supply of emission points is weak.

“Shampoo, detergent and coffee are almost never included. And many of the products are already close to or past their best-before date. It really is a shame; I immediately throw those things away at home. I do not eat that. I’m not an animal. “It frustrates her that she can only keep many products for one day. In addition, it is not clear to Melanie whether some products are already frozen or not, for example, in fact, she would prefer to choose her groceries themselves, as in a regular supermarket.

Store

The participants in the Food Bank at Gambiadreef do not have that ‘luxury’, but it is possible to shop elsewhere in Overvecht. In the food bank shop of the Burezina town hall on Jeanne d’Arcdreef, participants can walk around and choose which products they need and want to take with them. Very different from the pre-sorted bag of groceries that you have to pick up in a certain amount of time. The coordinators of the Food Bank also think it is much more pleasant to work.

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“That way, we find out what people really need from the food we offer,” says Lydia Klomp. Elizabeth Kooistra thinks it is more comfortable to work when there is no such time pressure. But she also sees that a grocery store in De Boog is not going to work. “I only have storage space for two large wagons, but that’s all. After today’s edition, everything must be tidied up neatly. There are also others who use the premises – here in the afternoon language lessons will be given to children with a foreign background. ” Building a store with shelves and cooling is therefore not an option here.

‘Fast fast’

To the great sorrow of many participants, volunteers and organizers, the Food Bank store in Burezina must close. From 1 September 2022, there will no longer be room for the concept at this location. Nico Jongerius, chairman of Fødevarebanken Overvecht, previously told DUIC. According to him, the reason for the decision lies with the new board of the town hall. That board would no longer offer a permanent seat to the store. However, this location may change to a common problem point. But Jongerius also prefers not to use a problem point. He says he does not want to give participants the feeling that everything has to be ‘fast fast’.

Both Fødevarebank’s locations in Overvecht say they are tight and actually want to merge into one large location. Klomp: “One actually hopes that the Food Bank will become redundant, that no one will need it.” But Lydia Klomp does not see this happening yet. “People who want to help can always donate, financially or in kind. But what we need most at the moment is a building. We have been looking for this for a year and a half. We get enough help from the municipality, but as I said, the search has been going on for a year and a half. ” It is still unclear what the future of the Food Bank in Overvecht will look like. But that all help is welcome, that is for sure.


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