More NL residents needing food bank aid long-term

Getting packages of food from a food bank is intended to be an emergency aid measure, but more and more people in the Netherlands need this help long-term. Last year 13 thousand people received food from food banks for longer than three years. That is 15 percent of the total customer base. Five years ago, only 5 percent were dependent on food bank packages for more than three years, NOS reports.

In principle, food bank aid is linked to the debt counseling process, which takes three years, Pien de Ruig of the Association of Dutch Food Banks explained to the broadcaster. The theory is that people will be able to support themselves again when coming out on the other side of debt counseling. But local food banks can decide to offer help for longer if they deem it necessary. 

"We test every six months whether people are still entitled to our help," a spokesperson for the food bank in Eindhoven said to NOS. "More and more often we do not see any improvement in the financial situation. This often concerns older, chronically ill or disabled customers."

Stella Hoff, poverty researcher at the social and cultural planning office SCP, called it surprising that the food banks are seeing an increase in long-term customers. "There has been an economic boom in the Netherlands for five years, so poverty is falling," she said, but added that not everyone is benefiting. "There is a group that is lagging behind and where poverty is becoming deeper. People who are poor now have an income that is much further below the poverty line than a few years ago."

Last year a total of 150 thousand people received food packages from food banks in the Netherlands, an 8 percent increase compared to the year before. The Association of Dutch Food Banks partly attributes the increase to all kinds of initiatives to lower the threshold for food banks.