The Red Cross distributes more food aid

Jussi Vierimaa / Finnish Red Cross
Jussi Vierimaa / Finnish Red Cross

Next year the Finnish Red Cross will distribute 60,000 kilograms of food in Finland as EU aid. In addition to the aid from the EU, the Rauma branch also distributes leftover school meals and unsold products from grocery stores to those in need.

Food aid in Finland
  • The branches of the Finnish Red Cross distributed approximately 51,500 kilograms of EU food aid during 2015 and 2016, or approximately 26,000 kilograms per year.
  • Next year there will be more food aid to distribute, since the Finnish Red Cross has been granted 60,000 kilograms of food for 2017.
  • The EU food aid consists of dry foods and canned foods that have all been produced in Finland.
  • During the season 2015–2016, EU food aid was distributed at two Red Cross districts and with a volunteer force from 14 branches. In 2017 EU food aid will be distributed by four districts and 33 branches.
  • The organisers also aim to organise participatory activities in connection with the food distribution. An example of this is the Red Cross Health Point activities.

Boxes of fruits and vegetables are being carried from the back of a van. The daily food distribution event in the Red Cross’s Rauma branch is about to begin.

The Rauma branch organises a distribution event for unsold food six days a week, sponsored by the local Lidl grocery shop.

From Monday to Friday they also offer meals that are made of unused food from the central kitchen for schools.

“This is now the second semester of offering school meals, and it has become a constant”, says Riitta Tenlén, publicist for the Rauma branch.

The Red Cross workers call the central kitchen every day to check whether there is any extra food. There usually is, and the lunch is complemented with bread, if necessary.

A few dozen visitors

The food distribution collaboration with Lidl has been going on for two years. Common unsold products include salads, fresh herbs and fruits. There are usually a few dozen visitors in the queue every day.

The food distribution begins before the school lunch, and the table is usually emptied quickly. Sometimes those eating lunch also find something to take home.

Anneli Airio is responsible for the organisation of the food distribution and the school lunch. She has worked with the Red Cross for four and half years.

“I’m a mother of eight, so I’m used to measuring portions carefully. I check what products come in and distribute them evenly so that everyone gets their share. If something is left over, I ask people to come and get some more”, Airio says.

She has notices that there is less food available on Fridays. Sometimes they have to close down if all the food has already been eaten at the school. The customers take these situations well.

Of the few dozen daily customers, many are retired, such as men living alone.

Collaboration with an organisation for the unemployed

The Rauma branch of the Finnish Red Cross also distributes food aid from the EU. In the spring, 1,500 kilograms of EU food were distributed in Rauma, and the same amount was also distributed during the autumn. The local organisation for the unemployed is the Red Cross’s partner in distributing EU food.

Riitta Tenlén says that the Rauma branch has more than 600 members, a hundred of whom are active participants. The branch organises friend visitor activities, first aid training and a club for the retired.

The local office is on call three times a week, and blood pressure and blood sugar measurement services are offered once a month at four premises located in different parts of the city.

The reception centre that was opened in Rauma last year is a part of the activities. They have started friend visitor activities for the asylum seekers, a multicultural family club and homework club for children, who can learn Finnish there too.

Many who have been granted asylum have bought their basic home supplies at the large second-hand shop in the branch.

Text: Elina Teerijoki