Yesterday when I went to the supermarket I was waylaid at the door and asked if I wanted to contribute to la Banque Alimentaire (the Food Bank). I was happy to have an opportunity to do so and took one of their shopping bags. The way it works is that you get a bag as you go in to do your regular shopping. As you go around you can add items to the bag, which you pay for at the check out with your own stuff and then give to the Banque Alimentaire volunteers on your way out. They ask that you mainly give preserved foods, oil, pasta, rice, sugar, coffee or chocolate and thank you for your support.
This is what they collected in the time I was in the supermarket (below). Almost every customer gave a couple of items. The poster says 'A small portion of your shopping can save a family'.
La Banque Alimentaire was set up in 1984 and acts as a hub for the collection of food aid for the those on low incomes in France. They do not get involved in the distribution, which is done by other well-known organisations like the Red Cross, but they do try to ensure a balanced and nutritious diet for those in need. Most (70%) of the recipients are trying to survive on less than €1000 a month.
They were collecting yesterday and today in 120 points of sale across the Touraine. A recent enquiry has shown that they are helping more and more people. This year they have collected and passed on 800 tonnes of food. One third of their funding is provided by the EU and French government (€150 000), a quarter by the agrifood industry, a quarter by large and medium sized shops and the rest comes from public collection days such as these. The Banque Alimentaire redistributes the produce to 60 local organisations, who in turn, give it to 8000 beneficiaries. Another collection will be held at the beginning of April, because by then their stocks will be down to almost nothing.
This year they have had quite a lot of publicity, as in the summer they moved in to new premises, twice the size of their old ones. As the paper noted - new location, new president, new refrigerated vehicles (donated by Gaz de France), new efficient methods of distribution and, alas, new needs. The number of retired people they help has remained stable, but there is a significant increase in the number of working poor who need assistance. Their unemployed beneficiaries have doubled in the last four years. These people report they are really struggling to pay their rent and energy bills. The Banque also notes an increase in family breakdowns, meaning that people are living alone and thus in a more economically precarious state.
The collection bags were interesting. The top says 'I'm aiming to be invisible. Thanks to eliminating white pigment I use less materials and energy when I'm manufactured.' The bottom says 'I am practical and tough: reuse me! Don't throw me on the ground.'