The panels in the south-west are sounding the alarm. Since this year they have been fighting on many fronts at the same time. A decision by the state government gives prospects for improvement.

Stuttgart (dpa / lsw) – The panels in the southwest have reached their capacity limits in many places. Around half have imposed a freeze on admissions this year, said Udo Engelhardt from the board of the regional association Tafel BW in Stuttgart. “The main problem is that we have too many customers and not enough food.”

According to Engelhardt, the number of holders of so-called customer cards, which allow people to shop at food banks, has risen from 150,000 to around 225,000 since the spring. Around 60 to 80 percent of customers now come from Ukraine. For example, since the large influx had lengthened waiting times in the shops, many people who had been there for a long time stayed away. Because of the inflation, they would come again.

At the same time, according to Engelhardt, fewer food donations are coming from retailers. Supermarkets are increasingly professionalizing their business and digitizing the planning of food requirements so that there are fewer surplus goods.

Ralph Beck from the Beiertheimer Tafel in Karlsruhe is also familiar with the problem. “We’ve never been as close to the limit as this year,” said the store manager. The store received 40 to 50 percent less fresh produce this year compared to 2019. You can’t avoid buying groceries – even if only with donations for exactly this purpose, because according to their guidelines, food banks are not allowed to buy any new goods themselves.

The Beiertheimer Tafel is in a comparatively comfortable position. Because behind her stands the Caritas Association Karlsruhe. “If we hadn’t had Caritas as our sponsor, we would have had to close the gates a long time ago,” Beck stated.

At the Karlsruher Tafel food bank, the gates are still open even without a porter behind you – but not everyone can get in. There is a freeze on admissions: new customers can only join if they unsubscribe. A problem for the voluntary association is above all the thin staffing level. According to board member Joachim Ruf, the voluntary employees are at their limits. “We can’t do it anymore,” Ruf warned.

Engelhardt from the state association emphasized that volunteer structures could not be expanded at will in order to guarantee the care of people in need. This is a state task. From the public side, the state government is now trying to help the heavily used panels in the south-west. She has considered a support package for social institutions, which includes 1.3 million euros for the food banks. “We’re thrilled. That’s good news,” said Engelhardt.

According to the spokesman, part of the money will be invested in state logistics so that large donations can be better distributed. In general, logistics is a big problem. Because the question arises, especially in rural areas: How many kilometers do you drive for a kilo of food that you receive as a donation?

However, according to the national association, most of the support is being put into emergency aid for the individual local food banks and the increased energy costs they are struggling with. In many cases, the costs would have more than doubled. This applies above all to expenses for fuel and cooling devices.