The more than 900 food banks in Germany, overseen by the charity Tafel eV, support anyone who can show that they are experiencing financial difficulties.ncieras. But fewer and fewer companies are donating food to them, even though demand is growing, amid high inflation and an influx of Ukrainian refugees.. This is why they are now asking the state for help.
The growing need for food aid is evident in Berlin’s Köpenick district, where the fan center for Bundesliga FC Union Berlin has become a grocery distribution point. A line of people is standing outside in the scorching heat, waiting to get inside.
Denise Lauer is making her first visit to one of these centers. She for a long time she was very reluctant. “I wanted to try it out,” she tells DW, “but I was too ashamed“.
The single mother explains that “it has become more and more difficult to make ends meet due to the high costs of food”. Today, however, she summoned all her courage and hopes to take home a basket of groceries that sells for just 1.50 euros.
Food costs have risen nearly 15 percent compared to last yearwith inflation at 7.3 percent, according to the German Federal Statistical Office.
For many, this means money is tight, which is why they rely on food banks to survive. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on a large scale in February 2022, 20 percent of German food banks have seen the number of people relying on discounted groceries double, according to Tafel.
“Before the war, no more than 340 people would come to our distribution days on Tuesdays, but now there are often more than 500,” Köpenick food bank manager Carol Seele tells DW. “Last Friday, we had 564 customers,” added volunteer Rita Hirsch, who keeps accurate records for the church-run distribution center.
More and more visitors due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine
“We have seen more and more customers because of the war,” Seele says. “Fortunately, we haven’t had to limit admission yet.”
Anyone with the necessary documentation showing they are in need can receive food assistance. However, other food banks have already begun to reduce the amount of food they give out per person and some have even stopped accepting new visitors.
Tetyana Kudyna fled the war in Ukraine with her young son. Her husband and her eldest son stayed in the Ukrainian capital kyiv. Kudyna visits the food bank every Tuesday with her son. “It helps me save a lot of money,” he tells DW. It’s also a chance to meet and chat with other Germans and Ukrainians, which she says is a “welcome distraction.”
Volunteers in Berlin founded Germany’s first Tafel food bank in 1993. The organization says it supports some two million people, with regional branches receiving food and financial donations. They also have support from major supermarket chains, such as Rewe, Lidl and Aldi, who donate surplus food and items with minor blemishes that would otherwise end up in the trash.
Lifeline for the poor
German food banks help people living in poverty, that is, those who have less than 60 percent of the average net income at their disposal. In Germany, following this definition, around 13 million people are considered to live below the poverty line.
But food donations have been on the decline for some time, Tafel tells DW. This is for several reasons, according to Andreas Steppuhn, its newly elected president. “One factor is that supermarkets now tend to operate more cheaply so they don’t have as much food left over at the end of the day“, said.
“We welcome this in principle, because we always think that it is good when food waste is minimized. However, food banks currently need more food donations to support the growing number of customers.” (rr/dzc)