Germany’s hidden hunger
Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany — Lilifer Kus works five days a week at a shop, but every Thursday morning she can be found at her local food bank, collecting the supplies she needs to feed her family.
She’s one of around 150 people who visit this food bank every week – mothers and fathers, pensioners and refugees. Like the others, she doesn’t have enough money to feed herself and her family.
This is one of more than 930 food banks affiliated with the centralized federation of German food banks. Around 1.5 million people are supported by affiliated Tafeln across the country, with countless more served by independent food banks. And according to a survey carried out by the federation in 2016, demand is growing.
“Poverty happens in secret”
Munich and its surrounding area are home to six of Germany’s 10 wealthiest districts. But this region is also home to 18 food banks. Fürstenfeldbruck is one of them.
The town’s pristine buildings, neatly swept sidewalks and romantic riverside restaurants disguise a growing level of poverty.
Behind a regular storefront just around the corner from the main street, volunteers are busy serving “customers,” lining shelves with canned food and stacking pallets of bread and vegetables collected from local bakeries and farmers’ markets.
Kus was one of the first to collect her food today.
She earns about 825 euros ($990) per month and gets an extra 500 euros ($600) in welfare because of her low wages.
But rents are high — and rising — in Fürstenfeldbruck. Kus’s apartment alone costs her more than 800 euros ($960) per month. Add in the cost of household bills and two children still living at home, and money is tight.
The percentage of Germans at risk of poverty rose from about 12% in 1995 to roughly 16% in 2014, according to a government report published earlier this year (2017).
Although official unemployment in the country is very low, more and more Germans are taking on part-time, low-paid and insecure jobs.
“The German economy has been growing steadily for decades,” explains Bertelsmann Foundation, which recently published a report on the distribution of wealth in Germany.
“But huge numbers of Germans, 40% of the population in fact, aren’t enjoying any of that prosperity for themselves. Inequality and poverty are both growing.”