Food banks in the Netherlands are sitting on millions of euros in government subsidies they don’t need and haven’t asked for, Trouw reported on Thursday.
Food banks were given €4m at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis to cope with an expected increase in demand and to prevent locations from having to close.
However, according to umbrella organisation Voedselbank Nederland, all 170 Dutch food banks, which serve some 100,000 customers a week, have not been in need of the money.
Despite this, the government has set aside another €8m for the food banks. The money comes from the European Social Fund and will be made available in the coming years.
‘We didn’t ask for a specific amount,’ spokeswoman Pien de Ruig told the paper. ‘We simply asked the government, what can you do for us if we should have to extend our capacity. This is the result and we’re very happy about it’.
De Ruig said food banks are still committed to preventing food waste but that the money serves as a piggy bank for leaner times. Supplies can vary at different food banks as donations fluctuate, and the money can then be used to buy food. ‘Our ideal scenario is that if at some point we need a million cans of pea soup we can just buy them,’ De Ruig said.
The food bank subsidies have also drawn criticism for ‘crossing a sensitive line if governments start buying food’, professor of social security law Gijsbert Vonk said.
‘This looks like a structural support for food banks and that is not something the government should want. You can offer support but it mustn’t become an alternative form of government policy. It would be better to integrate this in the social security system.’
A spokesman for the social affairs ministry said the money is ‘a temporary crutch’ for if food banks run out of food.
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