Czech shoppers asked to help feed people in need

Illustrative photo: Tomáš Adamec

On Saturday Czechs around the country will be encouraged to take part in the first-ever nation-wide collection of food for the poor. The event, co-organized by the Czech Federation of Food Banks and Business for Society, a platform that encourages cooperation between the corporate and non-profit sectors, comes in response to the growing number of people in need.

Illustrative photo: Tomáš Adamec
People doing their weekly shopping at their local supermarket on Saturday will be asked to spare a thought for those less fortunate – the growing number of poor who have trouble putting food on the table. At present there are close to 1.7 million Czechs living under the poverty line and the country’s six food banks have increasing problems collecting enough donations from retailers to help them out. Saturday’s nation-wide collection of perishable foods for the poor should see over 1,000 volunteers outside hypermarkets around the country, handing out leaflets to the public and explaining what the charity event is in aid of. People willing to help out will be given a list of appropriate food products which they can add to their shopping cart and leave at the cash desk.

Pavlina Kalousova of the Business for Society platform, says the aim is to raise awareness of the problem and drum up a response from the public.

“We are aiming to collect as much as possible because the situation in the Czech Republic is really demanding. There is an increasing number of people who need food donations – estimates speak of around 1.7 million people – while the amount of food in food banks is not increasing. So we hope that besides companies people will also help to fill the food banks and help feed people in need.”

Pavlína Kalousová,  photo: archive of CSR Europe
Will such collections take place regularly then?

“We actually hope that this will be the pilot year and we hope to organize a national food collection every year –the same as in Hungary, Poland or France where such a collection has been organized for the last 29 years.”

The Czech Republic presently has six food banks operating in various parts of the country. Since they were established in 2006 they have channeled over 2,000 tons of food from restaurants and hypermarkets to the needy. While donations have hit a plateau, there is a growing number of people in need, especially in north Bohemia and north-east Moravia where unemployment has hit a large percentage of the population. The head of the Czech Federation of Food Banks Fabrice Martin Plichta says there are plans in the pipeline to open a network of stores for the needy where products would be available for a symbolic price that would cover the cost of running the store.

“We want to open these kind of shops in this country because we have a problem. We mainly work with charity organizations for the distribution of food but many needy people do not reach out to these charities. They are on the social register of their local town and we are hoping that the local authorities will support the establishment of such stores for the needy where we could channel some of our food donations in order for such people to receive help as well.”

Fabrice Martin Plichta,  photo: archive of Czech Radio
People involved in the charity effort say helping the poor would be a great deal easier with the right legislation in place. Hypermarkets which regularly donate food to the country’s food banks are not properly motivated to help. With a 15 percent gift tax in place, it is more expensive for them to give away food than it would be to pay for its disposal. Charity workers are hoping that Saturday’s event will not only fill the warehouses of food banks but encourage lawmakers to effect a much needed change of legislation.