Number of people requiring food bank help has stabilized
The number of people who visit food banks in the Netherlands has stabilized in the first months of this year, said a spokesperson for Voedselbank Netherlands, which represents many food banks operating across the country. At the end of last year, the demand for packages of food had increased considerably.
In the last quarter of 2022, the number of food bank users increased by 30 percent to 120,000 per week. This coincided with the sharp increase in inflation and energy prices. The current stabilization is largely due to increases in benefits payments, and the price cap put in place by the national government to provide energy bill assistance, the spokesperson said on Monday.
The number of food bank users has basically remained the same since the beginning of 2023, he said. However, the food bank network is still struggling to collect enough food to distribute to everyone who needs assistance. "We manage, but it is a challenge. Especially now that fruit and vegetables have become more expensive," he said.
The increase also coincides with a timeline for new research by Deloitte, Nibud, and Leiden University that showed that 60 percent of households in the Netherlands struggled to pay their bills last year, up from 50 percent in 2021. According to the Dutch branch of the Red Cross, anecdotal evidence has shown that food has become more of an afterthought with more pressing financial concerns.
"More and more families have too little money left over for nutritious food. Young people are hit particularly hard. Given the continuously increasing inflation, the end is not yet in sight," said Heleen van den Berg from the Red Cross.
She said they are also managing to help about 20,000 people per month with food assistance. "Through local partners we distribute about 17,500 shopping cards per month and we help children with breakfast bags. It is inconceivable that this is necessary in a rich country like the Netherlands," she stated.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times