Coronavirus has generated greater food aid demand – people need food aid to make it through their everyday life

Marjaana Malkamäki
Image: Marjaana Malkamäki

According to the Finnish Red Cross’ survey, the majority of food aid customers feel they cannot survive without the service. The need for food aid has increased during the coronavirus pandemic. People should not be forced to rely on charity to receive help.

People in Finland are in urgent need of food aid. Thousands of people turn to the Finnish Red Cross’ food aid every month. Food aid is provided in 84 regions across Finland. The Red Cross carried out a survey on food aid customers’ feelings about food aid, well-being and health.

Normal people need food aid

Food aid customers are normal people, who are experiencing extreme financial difficulties and do not have enough money for food. The conditions and age of these people vary, but this year many have been forced to seek help due to the coronavirus situation. For example, the number of students and families with children in need of food aid has increased because of the pandemic.

‘Food aid allows people to spend money on other important expenses, such as those related to housing, medication and hobbies. They can also spend the money saved on healthier food and improve their diet,’ says Maria Viljanen, head of the Health and Care Unit at the Finnish Red Cross.

Aid is a necessity

81.5 per cent of the people who responded to the Finnish Red Cross’ survey felt that food aid was necessary for surviving their everyday life. Approximately half (51.5%) of the respondents used the food aid service every month. Nearly as many (47.3%) felt that the food aid offered in their home region does not fully meet their needs.

The Finnish Red Cross is concerned that so many people are still forced to rely on food aid in Finland.

 ‘Nobody should have to consider food aid a permanent solution The current level of basic security is inadequate, which is obvious when you look at the queues for the service. People should not be forced to rely on charity to receive help. Families with children and who are experiencing financial problems and lay-offs, in particular, should receive more permanent support through other means,’ says Maria Viljanen.

Need for other services alongside food aid

The lives of food aid customers are affected by their financial situation. Many respondents said their personal well-being improves when aid is available.

‘Other kinds of support and services should be offered alongside food aid, for example, discussion support. Our Food Aid & Fellowship project has developed more inclusive activities and included food aid recipients in volunteer activities,’ says Planning Officer of Social Activities Elisa Vesterinen.