Food banks assisted 300,000 people last year. They collected 11,300 tonnes of food, which is about 22 million portions of food worth CZK 680 million. Photo: Freepik.
Prague, April 12 (CTK) – Food bank warehouses are almost empty ahead of the spring round of nationwide food collections, said Ales Slavicek, head of the Czech Federation of Food Banks, giving evidence to the social affairs committee of the Chamber of Deputies.
He said that food banks were receiving daily requests for food, and that the current economic situation is also affecting the middle class.
Food banks assisted 300,000 people last year. They collected 11,300 tonnes of food, which is about 22 million portions of food worth CZK 680 million.
The food banks help people in difficult social situations, such as single parents and seniors, via a distribution network of nearly 1,400 non-profit organisations and companies. They also distribute hygiene equipment to those in need.
Slavicek said the warehouses are almost empty, as the federation has seen demand for aid up by 30% year-on-year. He added that even people who had not previously needed social assistance were now using the banks’ services.
In 2018, a law came into effect requiring stores over 400 square metres to donate unsellable food to non-profit organisations. Slavicek said that 60% of the food that reached the banks’ warehouses last year came from retail chains. Most of the food that ends up in the food banks would otherwise be disposed of.
Slavicek pointed out that non-perishable food is the most important for the banks.
In July, food banks will open in 150 locations in the Czech Republic to distribute aid directly to the public. Slavicek said the project would be based on cooperation with cities, and that physical stalls were planned in some cities. The mobile stalls should help some 50,000 people, he added.
Jindrich Fialka, the head of the food section of the Agriculture Ministry, told the committee that as of July, a new decree would allow the donation of frozen meals, for example in canteens, which had not been previously allowed by law.
Slavicek said the food banks also wanted to reach out to food producers and farmers.
The organisation has been receiving support for its operations from the Ministry of Agriculture since 2016, with more than CZK 113 million this year. It also receives support from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Last year, they also received CZK 200 million of EU money for investments, from a program of the Environment Ministry, which was used to buy or renovate their storage facilities.
National food collections have been held twice a year since 2019 to support food banks. The latest round of collections was held on 12 November at about 1,400 grocery and drug stores. A total of 520 tons of goods were collected, including 468 tons of food, equivalent to up to 936,000 portions. Members of the public also contributed 52 tons of drugstore items.
The spring round will be held on 22 April. There are 15 regional food bank branches in the Czech Republic, and one logistics centre in the Prague-Dubec district, which employs around 120 people.