Has solidarity got limits? It does at one food bank in west Germany’s town of Essen, where only newcomers presenting a German ID card will receive food. Such was the recent decision of the management, sparking a wave of criticism.
“We want German grandmothers to keep coming to us,” Jörg Sartor told a local paper. He heads the facility in Essen which is part of Tafel Deutschland, a nationwide charitable association providing free meals for the poor at 930 food banks. So far, it is the only facility to have introduced the measure.
On its website the food bank said 75 percent of its clients were foreigners at its peak; the fall out of the steep rise in asylum seekers over recent years. It said it found itself “forced” to introduce the measure “in order to ensure reasonable integration.”
Overall, the facility can only issue 1,800 food cards. Sometimes one card provides for an entire family. Foreign users are particularly likely to be feeding entire families.
Many regional Tafel Deutschland associations have slammed the facility. “Free food distribution is meant for everyone in need according to the organsiation’s principles”, head of the Berliner food banks, Sabine Werth, told the German press agency (DPA). Another regional charity in North-Rhine Westphalia also criticised the move saying that while resources are tight such decisions were fueling right-wing populism.
It wasn’t only high demand that influenced the decision. According to Sartor, many of the newer clients acted disrespectfully towards women. "When we unlocked the door in the morning, there was pushing and shoving regardless of grandmas in line," said Sartor. Some single mothers were also being deterred by young foreign men, he added.
He explained the decision to turn away non-German clients was not an easy one and he expected a backlash.
The food banks often receive donations from supermarkets to distribute to those in need.