The Netherlands is justifiably proud of its social security system which pays out relatively generous benefits to people who cannot work for all sorts of reasons.
Nevertheless, the country still has some 100 food banks, where people who find it hard to make ends meet can go to pick up a box of food which supermarkets and others have donated.
Some 15,000 people are thought to make use of the food banks. That figure is thought to have gone up since Dutch singer René Froger used one while he and his family tried to spend a month living on a minimum income.
Froger´s involvement, however cheesy, helped to dispel embarrassment about asking for help.
Food banks are a very laudable initiative and doubtless they help some people who are in real need. But, as junior social affairs minister Achmed Aboutaleb said earlier this week, local councils should be steering people who find it hard to cope to official sources of help, not to food banks.
Food banks, he said, are a plaster on the wound, not a wonder cure. And he is right. We pay enough tax and social security contributions here to make sure everyone is properly looked after.
The fact that a wealthy country like Holland has food banks should embarrass the government rather than the people who use them.
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