National increase in food bank registrations not yet visible in Schagen

General

REGION – Just before Prince’s Day, Saturday 17 September, the Food Bank in the Netherlands lowered the threshold for receiving a food parcel. Due to the explosive inflation, the Food Bank of the Netherlands is already taking action instead of in January. More and more people are unable to keep up financially with the rising prices and are calling the Food Bank. An increase of 5% was already visible in June, and the number of new registrations in the Food Bank is currently growing explosively. Why is this increase in Schagen not yet visible? How do you end up in the Food Bank as a single pensioner and can the Food Banks handle the increasing pressure? The editors spoke to three stakeholders who experience the consequences of the price increases up close.

By: Sandra Ooms

Raymund Tromp has worked as a volunteer at the Kop van Noord Food Bank for years. He is responsible for the admissions and assesses them together with the debt counseling in the municipality. However, the decision is always made by Raymund himself, he is close to the people and hears their story. Raymund: “The threshold that has recently been re-established makes it easier for a larger group of people to request our packages. You will soon reach the amount to be eligible for our help. If, for example, you have a regular social benefit and you get a hefty energy bill, then you are already there. On the one hand, it’s great, we want to help as many people as possible. On the other hand, I am also concerned that we are not overwhelmed by applications. We’ll see.

sobriety dominates

At the moment we have not noticed an increase in our region, while the numbers in the Netherlands do not lie. There is a lot of social control and people help each other, sobriety also dominates here. People often feel that they have to solve the problems themselves. ‘I eat one less sandwich’, they think. While we want to intervene at the very beginning when problems arise. Come to us sooner rather than later before a small problem becomes a huge problem and you end up in debt settlement. The atmosphere here is good, I have never met anyone who is not happy that the step has been taken. So the threshold is lower than you think, shame is not necessary. We can also offer temporary help, which often happens to couples who are divorcing and in financial crisis. Just come talk to us, grab a bite to eat and go about your business. After about 3 to 6 months, we let them go again and they can handle everything better.”

sledgehammer

The higher costs, but especially the increase in the gas bill, were also disastrous for Els*, she recently ended up in the Food Bank. In June last year, she received an exorbitant annual bill from her energy supplier, which she did not see coming. In addition to her fixed costs and the amount she normally already pays for energy, she also has a payment arrangement due to the bill in question. She fell short every month. Els: “I have been a pensioner for 7 years, everything was well organized and I could cope well. My husband died last year, after his death I received a widow’s pension. As a result, my income was already a bit lower, but after the disastrous annual bill, I really couldn’t afford it anymore. It has touched me deeply. Still grieving for my husband, that note came in like a sledgehammer. My wallet was empty. To me it feels like failure. I have always been the one to take care of the less fortunate. I always donated to the food bank myself and gave clothes to charities. It is unreal that I ended up in this situation at the age of 71, but there was no other option than to register with the Food Bank. I feel terribly trampled on my soul. Shame, I feel that too. Every week I have to mentally and physically cross the threshold at the Food Bank, every week a ‘fight’. Once inside, everyone is very nice to me, they welcome me, I can speak my mind and they are very compassionate. I am very grateful to these people, they are amazing! Yet that shame remains. It’s in me, it’s a piece of pride that has been taken away from me. Almost no one knows that I get my food from the Food Bank every week. Just my closest and some very close friends. I’m always afraid that I’ll run into people I know when I go out with the shopping bags. Fortunately, once the items are in the cupboard, I can switch gears and give myself a kick. Luckily I don’t stay in the misery for too long, so was my husband. We were together for 46 years. If I don’t like it for a while, I talk to his picture and I can handle it again for a while.”

National increase

Tom Hillemans, vice-president of the Food Bank of the Netherlands, explains: “If we look at the whole country, we see that there is a significant increase in applications. Twice a year we measure the status of each food bank. Our last measurement was on 31 December 2021 and in June 2022 we already saw an increase of 5%, which is much higher than average. Then we notice a new trend: usually demand drops in the summer, which didn’t happen last summer. We have seen a linear increase in recent weeks. I can’t wait to see coffee grounds, but there is no doubt that a significant increase is on the way. At the moment we are still able to cope, but if this trend continues and no further supplies come in, we will have a big problem. We can of course make the package smaller, but that stops at some point. We are currently fully considering how to tackle this impending problem. It is great that business is fighting food waste, planning better and still selling products, but it gives less supply to the food banks. We get less and less food. If it really becomes too tight, we must call on society and look for alternative solutions. Think shopping campaigns, asking the public to buy things for the food bank, asking business to give something extra and asking politicians to help us when the need arises.”

How much money is left for food, sports or clothes after deducting your fixed costs? That amount determines whether you are entitled to a package from the food bank. The standard amount for admission is set according to criteria and the size of the lunch package is mainly determined by the number of family members living at home. You can find the criteria for the regions Hollands Kroon and Schagen at www.voedingsbankkopvannoord.nl.

* In connection with the protection of privacy, the name Els has been changed


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