The Food Bank sees the number of customers double in a year: “The end is not in sight”

The year 2023 is now one week old. It’s time to take stock. How do we look back on 2022? And what are the expectations for the new year. A conversation with Maria Jongsma from Food Bank Groningen.

Hello Maria! The fact that we’re having this conversation today is actually a very good time, isn’t it?
“You can say that with certainty. Our New Year’s meeting took place yesterday. We had a nice time with all our volunteers. Volunteers, whom we cannot do without and for whom we are very happy. And vice versa, it is also appreciated. Organizing a fun day makes them feel appreciated. And that is just very important.”

How do you look back on 2022?
“It was a busy year, where a lot happened. Due to the war in Ukraine, the prices of energy and groceries, for example, have increased enormously. And this has resulted in a doubling of the number of customers for us. Last year on 1 January we had 338 households who were customers with us. On 31 December we had 775 households. It is a very worrying situation. A situation where the end of growth is not yet in sight.”

Before we go to 2023: an increase also means more products are needed to help everyone…
“Correct. And it worked. I have already named our volunteers. I also want to give a compliment to all the people and institutions who donated to us last year. For example, we had a really good Christmas campaign in December. Thanks to campaigns on schools and children’s institutions, many products have come to us. But supermarkets and private individuals have also been generous. In addition, we have also received financial support because people have transferred money to charity. All in all, our stock is currently full.”

It sounds very positive…
“Absolutely. But we also know that a warehouse can be depleted very quickly. I expect that we will have to organize several store promotions during this year to keep our stocks up to standard. We will have to keep to look for supply channels and donations so that we can help our customers in a good way.”

Reading between the lines, I notice that you are busy with more things in relation to the future…
“That’s right. I already mentioned the numbers: we are busier. This means, for example, that we have to extend our times for issuing products. Now it’s only in the morning, but because we have so many customers, we will have to to stay open longer to receive everyone. This automatically means that we also need more volunteers. On our website you will find the vacancies of the people we are currently looking for. But more families who are customers also means , that more products are sent out. We are therefore considering buying a larger truck with which we can transport larger stocks with heavier weight.”

The number of customers has doubled. Do you expect growth to continue in 2023?
“Yes. The end is not yet in sight. And this is very worrying. To serve as many people as possible, we are also looking to open distribution points in Haren and Hoogkerk. On Tuesday we will open a point in Haren, on Thursday in Hoogkerk . And there’s also a lot going on internally at us. For example, our application center is very busy, so we need to free up more space so they can do their job properly.”

Now we know you as an enthusiastic and passionate chairman. Can it all still be done?
“It’s very busy, but I really enjoy being able to do this. And as I said, I’m not doing it alone. We can do that thanks to all the volunteers. To cite an example. During Christmas week, Monday was omitted because it was then Boxing Day. The customers who come on Mondays had to be moved to other days. And we did just that. Because everyone was a little longer, we just boxed it together. It makes me very happy. And I think that with that attitude we can also go very far in 2023.”

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