More than 60,000 people in the Netherlands are now receiving free food packages from food banks because their income is low. The number of people claiming the handouts has been rising by 10 percent a month since December.
In some parts of the country the scheme is unable cope with the number of claimants, and there are now waiting lists. In Rotterdam the food bank is accepting no new claims, having already had as many as 500 this year. Dozens of people are therefore being turned away.
The quality of the basic packages is also falling, and they contain less healthy food. Last week the packages in Rotterdam were filled with sweets, biscuits and fruit-flavoured squash.
In the first quarter of 2012 the scheme has received as many new claims as it did during the whole of 2011, Clara Sies of the Netherlands Food Bank Foundation told public radio news. “It’s undoubtedly because of the economic crisis,” she added. “People have more outgoings, such as higher medical insurance excesses, higher energy bills.”
At the same time, supermarkets are donating less unsold food to the food bank foundation. This was the case last year as well but the problem appears to be getting worse. "There is plenty of surplus food out there," said Ms Sies, "but we're not receiving it."
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide