Food banks under pressure

Concerns about daily bread

In the Netherlands, more than a million people live below the poverty line. For them, it is not a matter of course that they can buy enough healthy and affordable food. Food banks can barely cope with the increasing demand. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the vulnerability of the food bank system, which is primarily based on voluntary work and charity, became especially visible. Supermarkets and restaurants, important donors, had their hands full with other challenges and this in particular had a major impact on the distribution of (free) food. Reason why Madhura Rao, connected to the Food Claims Centre Venlo, started an investigation.

Large differences between organizations

The problems caused by the pandemic soon became apparent, particularly at the smaller, privatized food banks. They could not fall back on support from the government, so had to use creative actions to try and keep their work going. For example, by working together with unemployed professional cooks, looking for all kinds of suitable local initiatives and thinking up new ways to find and serve clients.

Concerns about the system

This situation has raised the question of how far our current system is capable of distributing food in a responsible, safe way to people who depend on it. Madhura's research shows that the number of people who will be relying on a food bank in the future will continue to rise. During the COVID-19 pandemic, new forms of food distribution were experimented with. For example, with ready-made meals. Or other logistic processes, with consequences for both supplier and customer. Is it socially and legally responsible to leave this method of food distribution to 'the market' on such a large scale? How do other countries do it? It would probably be advisable for the Dutch government to regulate this entire system more strictly.

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