The figure is a new record. The change in the profile of food bank visitors clearly shows that the pandemic is hitting many people in their purse.
Belgians in precarious work situations, who suddenly end up on the dole or students, who have lost their student job, are now among regulars.
“We have never experienced so many people relying on food banks” says Jef Mottar, the managing director of the Belgian Federation of Food Banks.
“It’s striking we see a lot of people who are in a job that doesn’t provide any social safety net e.g. temporary workers, who become temporarily or permanently unemployed due to corona and can’t fall back on benefit.”
Food banks are seeing a big surge in the number of young visiting. Many students have lost their student jobs and can’t afford the bare necessities of life. The pandemic axed many jobs in hospitality and the events sector often filled by students.
During an average month 175,402 people called on a food bank last year. Figures peaked during the summer when the figure surged to 195,000.
In all Belgian food banks distributed 20,967 tons of food or 42 million meals. The figure is up 24% on the year.
The food banks are represented by 631 local organisations. Brussels bore the brunt of the crisis with demand up 16.5% across the Belgian and Flemish capital.
Demand has been increasing across the board for years, but the pandemic added an extra dimension.