The stripping clean of supermarket shelves by a wave of panic buying is depriving food banks of one of the sources of their supplies, the VRT reports.
In normal circumstances, supermarkets donate unsold products approaching their sell-by dates to local food banks, where they can be distributed to the poor.
But as supermarkets face the phenomenon of panic-buying – despite there being more than adequate provision further up the supply chain – there is little or nothing left to donate.
For the Brothers of Solidarity, a charitable organisation in Brussels that cooks and distributes food to the homeless and food packages to the less fortunate, life goes on despite the lockdown.
“Last Sunday we went out to distribute our food packages, and the homeless people were telling us that they hardly saw any aid organisations any more,” said David Goubert, president and one of the founders of the organisation.
“We saw a lot of hungry homeless. Things are not going too well for them.”
The wholesale closure of restaurants has cut off another source of food surplusses.
“We used to collect up to 50 cardboard boxes full of food. Now we’re down to three boxes with salad and unsold products, but a piece of meat is no longer anywhere to be seen,” Goubert said.
Panic buying is also eating into the meagre resources of poor families.
“Some families have €20 to last them a week. Now, with the panic buying, it’s the cheapest products that are sold out first. A pot of chocolate spread at 50 cents will be sold out, so they’re forced to take the more expensive brand. With €20 they can only buy a third of what they would normally.”
Meanwhile a new centre run by the Red Cross for homeless people infected by the coronavirus (Covid-19) has started taking in residents.
One person was referred to the centre on Rue de Trêves near the European Parliament by the Brussels social aid agency Samusocial, and another referred by the agency for asylum seekers Fedasil is awaited, according to Nancy Ferroni, spokesperson for the Red Cross.