While the number of people calling on food banks has risen sharply, especially in the large cities, the Association of Dutch Food Banks has more money than ever.
The Association of Dutch Food Banks, to which 172 food banks are affiliated, has been inundated with donations since the corona crisis, according to the recently published annual accounts for 2020.
At the turn of the year, the association had more than 16 million in liquid assets, compared to 2.8 million a year earlier. This was offset by nearly 6 million in debt. ‘2020 was an exceptionally favorable financial year,’ the board writes in the annual report.
The gifts mainly came in at the beginning of the first lockdown, says Leo Wijnbelt, chairman of the association. “Two thirds of our 13,000 volunteers are seniors and they were obviously vulnerable in the pandemic. Within 24 hours, nearly twenty food banks and two distribution centers were forced to close. The fear was that perhaps three quarters of all food banks would fail and 100,000 people would be left without food. That prospect led to many donations. It is unique how much money food banks have received. There was tremendous generosity.”
The largest part came from wealthy Dutch people and wealthy funds, according to Wijnbelt. Private individuals donated almost 2.5 million, more than six times as much as in 2019. The business community came with 3.3 million, compared to just under 5 tons in 2019. An action by Radio 538 at the end of 2020 yielded 1.3 million 6.5 tons came in via Albert Heijn Christmas stollen and the Postcode Lottery made an extra donation of 5 tons.
Just under a quarter of the money was used to keep the food banks functioning safely, with, for example, protective equipment for employees and supermarket vouchers for customers. But there are still millions who came in with the payment reference ‘corona’, ‘Covid-19’ or ‘crisis’.
“We have discussed the destination of their donations with larger donors,” said Wijnbelt. “If the vaccinations continue to go well and the pandemic ends soon, we can return the money. But we can also use it to improve our logistics structure in the coming year and a half.”
“We expect that if the government stops supporting the business community, there will still be an economic crisis. We are preparing for a possible growth of 50 percent of our customer base, to 150,000 people per week, especially in the major cities. For example, we have to adjust our distribution accordingly. The donors have all said: primarily the money is intended for corona, but if it is not needed there, it can go to matters related to expanding our customer base.”
The association also has a subsidy of 4 million from Social Affairs in cash, which came in last year as a safety net in case food banks were in need of money due to the corona crisis. Thanks to this subsidy, customers with supermarket vouchers could do their own shopping. The cabinet allows the food banks to keep the money in reserve in case the number of customers grows so strongly that there is not enough food in stock.
In the major cities, the number of people calling on the food bank has already increased by tens of percent in the past year, with the 50 percent growth in Amsterdam being the peak. Meanwhile, the number of Amsterdammers who knock on the door is not growing any further, but it is not falling either. More than 4,700 residents rely on the food bank. Nationally, growth in 2020 was more than 7 percent.
Other charities also received more money
Food banks are not the only organizations that received more donations during the corona crisis. According to a spokesperson for the trade organization Goede Doelen Nederland, there is an increase across the board. According to the annual accounts for 2020 of 83 organizations, income from gifts and donations increased by 4 percent to a total of 388 million euros. There are major differences between organizations.
At smaller clubs, with a budget of 100,000 euros, income fell by more than 13 percent, compared to 2019. “People are very involved in the work of charities,” says Margreet Plug, director of Goede. Goals The Netherlands. “Regular donors have continued to faithfully support charities and there was more space and willingness to donate online during the period when collections, fundraising at the door and events had to be suspended. And that is fantastic.”
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