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Record year for food banks in Belgium
Food banks in Belgium distributed a record number of meals last year, with charities warning that "the poverty rate is constantly increasing".
Some 17,936 tonnes of food were handed out to 320,000 people in need in 2019 - the equivalent of 36 million meals. The amount distributed is up 17% on the previous year.
The Federation of Food Banks, which brings together more than 600 charitable associations in Belgium, said the increase can partly be explained by a growing number of donations from large retailers, such as supermarkets, which now account for about a third of the food distributed.
Another third comes from European aid, and the remaining third direct from the food industry. Among the most-donated items are fruit and veg, dairy produce, bread, cereals and drinks.
Jean-Benoît Hoet, coordinator at La Porte Verte in Molenbeek, said the profile of people coming to the charity for food aid was changing.
"There are new forms of poverty such as students who have a master's degree and who no longer live with their parents," he told RTBF.
"At the other end, you have a retiree whose pension is not enough, or a parent who finds himself alone after a divorce and only works part-time to look after his children." A third of food bank recipients are single parents, according to the federation's research.
Hoet added: "The food aid sector is not subsidised at all. I pay my storage costs, my water, my gas, my electricity, heating, transport and driver. If European funds stop, we close shop."
Photo: Benoit Doppagne/Belga