Assen and Food Bank do not like food passes for customers

Assen will not introduce a food pass for people who currently rely on the Food Bank. Such a card to do your own shopping would be ‘more humane’ than going to the Food Bank for a package of food. The municipality conducted further research into such a pass system, following the example of Rotterdam. But it turns out to be quite expensive. And the board of the Food Bank also sees little point in such a card system.

The Food Bank is also afraid that it will lose track of its customers. “This makes it less possible to estimate which additional requests for help clients may have,” the board says. Ultimately, the municipality and the Food Bank came to the conclusion that such a system with cards has little added value.

50PLUS Assen advocated such a special food pass in the municipal council at the end of 2022. Because now people go to the Food Bank ‘with shame’, often afraid of meeting someone they know. “You should just go and pick up your package at the Food Bank and meet your neighbor there who is a volunteer,” said party leader Clemens Otto. That doesn’t happen with a card to the supermarket.

The party also finds the food parcel distribution system ‘rather old-fashioned’. Especially because people have no freedom of choice in products and have to eat what the package is filled with. 50PLUS received support from a council majority to see how the Food Bank could be better helped.

But the municipality and the foundation board of the Hart van Drenthe Food Bank conclude that the card system has ‘no relevant addition’, even though it costs a lot. There are also other schemes for minimum wage and shopping cards from the Red Cross. The Food Bank is there ‘for extreme food needs’. A pass does not replace that goal, they believe.

When it comes to shame, the Food Bank would like to see if it can set up a campaign to reduce that shame among customers. The municipality wants to support this with its communication channels. Students from the Thorbecke Academy did research into it and came up with some tips. They advise the Food Bank to make more use of social media channels. Here they could share recipes, photos of food parcels and fundraisers or thank donors.

The Food Bank could also take the needs of customers more into account when distributing packages, for example by letting them make a shopping list. “Because the limited consumption options also cause shame, that they cannot eat what they would like,” the students advise.

The municipality also wants to help the Food Bank with full reimbursement of housing costs, so that the organization can focus on its main task, which is to ensure an adequate supply of food. The problem is that the number of Food Bank customers is increasing and the supply of products by supermarkets is decreasing. In any case, Assen will be responsible for housing and energy costs in the coming years.

In Assen, more than 750 people use the Hart van Drenthe Food Bank. In the entire operating area, including the municipalities of Tynaarlo, Aa and Hunze and Midden-Drenthe, the organization has almost 1,200 mouths to feed.