SCHIEDAM – The Food Bank Schiedam must look for a new home. Due to changes in supply from the regional distribution center in Rotterdam, a larger room with storage capacity is required than what is available at the collection point on Groenelaan.
Chairman Marja Docter-Oldenburg and her director colleagues have already started looking for possible suitable premises, but they are not there to accept. There is still some time, because the changes will only come into effect on January 1, 2024. “But we have to be there on time, because there is a lot that needs to be arranged and also renovated,” says Docter.
The Schiedam food bank with two distribution points still mainly receives its food from Keileweg, behind Marconiplein in Rotterdam. The packages are collected in a large distribution warehouse from the bulk lots of food made available by manufacturers and supermarkets. A box is filled for each customer. The Rotterdam Food Bank makes itself useful for the wider environment.
The boxes are delivered on Thursday to the corner building Groenelaan/Willemskade, which the Food Bank Schiedam has used for this purpose for over five years. Customers can then pick up their package between half past five. After business is done in Gorzen, the food bank’s truck drives to Dreesplein in Nieuwland, where ‘customers’ from the food bank receive their parcels in the community hall hall.
The distribution structure will be revised, says Docter. “The warehouse on Keileweg will disappear and Rotterdam’s food bank will focus exclusively on Rotterdam. It is investigating the possibilities of working with a store concept, as is already the case in Vlaardingen.” A store has been set up with the assortments collected by the food banks in the Netherlands, where customers can “shop” according to their own ideas. In Schiedam, according to Docter, such a change to a store is not being considered. “The current spaces are not suitable for that .If we find a new space that allows this, we will see if it works for us, but we are already very happy to find a space to store and process goods.”
The result of the changes is that the bulk shipments that currently still arrive and are processed from the chain store’s distribution centers and the manufacturers at the warehouse on Keileweg will in future come to Schiedam. Docter estimates that’s about half of what’s in the packs right now. And then it is also about pallets. “They can’t come in here,” says the volunteer chairman in the building on Groenelaan.
The doctor will be sorry if she has to pack up there. “It’s cozy here, in the middle of the neighborhood, people sometimes walk in like that. It is a nice place and we have been accepted by the neighborhood.”
In addition to receiving and distributing the packages, the volunteers from the Food Bank Schiedam ‘on’ Groenelaan also supplement them with other goods. Think of the fresh vegetables that come from the Food Bank’s gardening. But also products supplied by collectors such as churches and private individuals.
Currently, around 95 households come to Groenelaan to pick up a package each week, according to Docter. There are about a hundred and fifty on Dreesplein. “In the spring there were still a total of one hundred and seventy,” said the chairman. “You see that people are running up their high energy bills. In addition, groceries become very expensive.”
This development also means that the food bank Schiedam’s customer base is changing. Where once mainly people on welfare or – almost – without income bought food at the food bank, the diversity of customers is growing. “You see more and more people knocking on the door with a job.” Incidentally, it is not much more than an impression, because Docter and colleagues do not know the background of the clients. Only if they open a book about it themselves will they learn something about ‘why’ it is to go to the food bank. “For example, people in debt settlement can work but still have very little to spend because they’re paying off debt,” says Docter. Lunch packs have been distributed in Schiedam since 2002, originally under the name SUAS, Stichting Uitgeprocedeerde Asielzoekers Schiedam.
The applications that Food Bank Schiedam receives are weighed according to national criteria by a small committee. As a starting point, it is not the people themselves, but organizations such as Humanitas, the WOTs, Refugee Work or, for example, an administrator who sends the application. This is no longer based solely on income as it once was, but is now much more based on the ratio of fixed costs to revenue. In total, around five households now enter the Food Bank Schiedam’s ‘customer base’ every week.
If things do not change, they can no longer be helped after January 1, 2024. According to Docter, the Food Bank Schiedam is therefore looking for a warehouse of three to four hundred square meters in Schiedam, preferably centrally located, but also in a business park. Large enough to be accessible for a truck and the pallets being handled. Such a new home has not yet been found easily, the chairman believes. “There is nothing at Vijfsluizen. We are now looking at ‘s-Graveland to see what is available.” If the new location is the right place and big enough, the distribution of food packages from Dreesplein could also take place there, but there is no need for that. The Food Bank Schiedam prefers to find a building that it can buy that will prove to be cheaper in the long run, and thanks to the good relations with a few foundations, that should be achievable, according to Docter.
In principle, she wants to secure a property in the short term, because ‘it takes time to adapt it’. “The home must meet the requirements for food safety, a freezer must be realized – ‘we now have two freezers and two refrigerators in use here, but you will not bring that’. For example, the products that the food bank can pick up weekly from the Schiedam branches of ‘de Dirk’ are kept refrigerated.
It should ideally also be a place where people like to visit, because that remains one of the food bank’s success factors according to Docter: the goodwill of the Schiedams. “You see it all around you. We had a young man here this week who went to buy pet food with friends with cash receipts because he realized that the pets of the food bank clients might not be getting as much to eat either. He continues to collect.”
Ballet studio Schiedam-Vlaardingen holds particularly successful campaigns, the Foundation for Children, which makes children’s clothes. “There we can apply for children’s clothes three times a year. That is, with name and data, such as the size of a child.” Based on the wishes via Facebook, the foundation assigns tasks to volunteers who make the children’s clothes. This results in beautiful packages of clothes that are highly valued, also in Schiedam.
The funeral company Antonium brought tasty products made by employees with a physical or mental disability at the bakery De Butterfly, ordered by the owner, Ton van der Horst. “A treasure of a man,” says Docter. There are several such. “A lady held a collection in her street, she will bring the proceeds this week.” There is intensive collection in churches, both items and euros.
Contributions are greatly appreciated by the Food Bank Schiedam. “Costs are going up for us too, just think of the diesel for our truck, which goes back and forth to Rotterdam five times a week.” And sometimes longer. “We recently also received items from Hello Fresh, which we collect every Wednesday in Spijkenisse.”
Especially with the holidays just around the corner, people sign up for the food bank: a shipyard will make Christmas packages, the dance school will hold its campaign between Sinterklaas and Christmas. The gifts from the Sintvoorieder1 Foundation are also expected again soon. “We have made 155 applications for children from zero to twelve years old in our database.”
There are private individuals who report because they may miss out on the 190 euros from their energy company. “We used that money to buy cheese for all our customers. It’s special, because in principle we don’t buy anything, the food bank was also created to prevent food waste. But cheese is never actually included in the food packages, so we would do that one time.”
Docter appreciates people’s creativity and generosity by donating the energy compensation. “It’s very nice, and we like to encourage people to make that contribution,” she says. “But we are just as happy with ten people transferring fifteen euros. We don’t want to think too big, it’s about people having empathy, participating.” Finally, with the new food distribution structure, the Food Bank Schiedam will need more volunteers in the future than the thirty or so today.