Queue for the food bank: it is an exception, although it is certain that more and more people need help

Huge crowds at the food bank in eastern Amsterdam this week: For hours, people queued in the cold for a bag of groceries. The need is great, Regina Mac-Nack also sees: “Actually, I’m ashamed that people can no longer make ends meet.”

30 years ago, Mac-Nack founded the food bank ‘Hoop op Morgen’ in Amsterdam Southeast. 1500 families are now dependent on the box of groceries that they can pick up every week. And more and more are coming, she says.

‘I have to hurry’

So far, she can still fill all the boxes. “It will be difficult because more families are coming,” she says. “You need more families.” Therefore, she is on the phone with companies all day to arrange food. “I have to rant, otherwise people won’t get anything in their box. You can’t sit still.”

And it is now also about the working poor, says Mac-Nack. “People who work but still don’t come out.” They have almost nothing left, she says. “Their income is the same, but expenses are increasing.”

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For many people, the cost of living has skyrocketed. Energy costs, insurance and rent: everything goes up. “A lot of people are at risk of being cut off,” she says. “But it’s winter, it’s cold.” At the end of December, she organizes a big Christmas event. People can sign up for a free meal and entertainment for children is also arranged. There are already 1100 registrations.

Mac-Nack thinks what is happening in Holland right now is very bad. “Actually, I’m embarrassed that people don’t make ends meet,” she says. It creates tension. “A lot of people are sick at home.” People take strange steps, get depressed, and they think it’s no use anymore. The rising costs make them gloomy.

‘Driving like in Amsterdam was excessive’

The influx is recognized by the Food Banks of the Netherlands. They saw a 30 percent increase in the last period and are currently helping around 45,000 families. Rijen, as in Amsterdam this week, a spokesman calls ‘excesses’. Although it is certain that many more people need food aid. The national food banks still manage to fill a bag every week.

“We see that more and more groups need help and find it harder to make ends meet,” says Tamara Madern, lecturer in ‘Debt prevention and early warning’. “When the food banks started, we hoped that it would be a temporary thing and could go away quite quickly, but we see that the problem is far from over.”

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‘Strange that the food bank is necessary’

Madern also sees problems mainly among the working poor. “We’re also seeing more and more people earning average or more and also getting into trouble.” Fixed costs and groceries continue to rise. “So fewer and fewer people are left with space.”

Most of the money goes to energy costs or other costs, she says. This leaves no money for groceries. “Eventually they can go to a food bank, but it’s also strange that a food bank is needed in a prosperous country like the Netherlands.”

Package of measures from 1 January

A package of government measures follows from 1 January. For example, the energy ceiling is introduced and the minimum wage is raised. A very nice development, says Madern. “At the same time, we should not think that this will eliminate problems.”

The package of measures will certainly help. “Only a lot of people don’t know the measures are there, they can’t use them, they don’t think they’re entitled to them,” she says. “Or they’re anxious to apply for it because they’re afraid they’ll have to pay it back.”

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Making steps

Furthermore, applying for measures is complex because applications have to be submitted in different places. “They have to provide a lot of data, people have a hard time getting through the bureaucracy,” says Madern. “We also see that people don’t know.”

This means that far less is demanded than what people are entitled to. The municipalities are therefore running campaigns to make people aware of what they are entitled to, says Madern. “But we still have to make big strides in it.”

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