Food aid requests soar in Algarve

Requests for food aid have increased in the southern Algarve region of Portugal and NGO Refood’s support in the city of Faro isn’t enough to help all families due to a lack of storage space, Lusa news agency reported on Tuesday.

Every afternoon, several families queue up for food at the door of the institution’s base – an old house in the centre of Faro provided by a local family, according to  Lusa.

The deliveries are carried out in two shifts, and on the second shift, there were over a dozen families, many with minors, asking for support.

One woman interviewed by Lusa had to ask for support after her former partner lost his job and could no longer afford to pay child maintenance. She felt ashamed but resorted to asking for help from Refood, which collects and distributes leftover food from restaurants and also food made by volunteers, as well as food baskets.

“I felt ashamed because I work and when you work you don’t think you’re going to need help and you think you will manage to support your kids. There shouldn’t be [shame] because you’re not stealing, but that’s how you feel,” the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told Lusa.

The woman was told that she could have access to support three times a week due to her shaky economic situation. However, she decided to only accept help two times a week, explaining that receiving food two times a week was enough for her, and that other families also needed support.

Another woman, who was pregnant and also wished to remain anonymous, told Lusa that she had three more children at home and that Refood was the only way to resolve her current situation. Both her and her husband are unemployed and she is no longer receiving incoming support, she explained.

The head of Refood in Faro, Paula Matias, said 300 families were receiving food aid, but that the NGO was not able to help all the families asking for help.

“We stopped being able to respond a week and a half ago since we have where to get food but we don’t have enough space to store it. We have a partner in the hotel industry that gave us a large amount of frozen food and we don’t have space to place a freezer,” she said.

Banco Alimentar, the country’s main food bank organisation, said it had also seen an increase in requests for help in the past weeks. Nuno Alves, coordinator at Banco Alimentar do Algarve, told Lusa that Banco Alimentar are currently supporting around 25,000 people and that he was concerned about the upcoming months, with many hotels closing meaning that requests for help were likely to rise.