A food bank in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia has temporarily stopped accepting non-German new registrants.
Tafel Deutschland in Essen, one of the charitable association’s more than 930 nationwide food banks, is currently only accepting new customers with a German ID card.*
The food bank which serves free meals to the poor made the decision last December and implemented it in January until further notice.
On the organization’s website, they state the reason behind the decision was that they “felt compelled to ensure reasonable integration,” adding that they had seen an “increase in the number of migrants in recent years” and the proportion of foreign citizens among their customers had risen dramatically.
“We want German grandmothers to continue coming to us,” head of the association in Essen, Jörg Sartor, told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ).
Over the past two years, the elderly people and single mothers visiting the food bank have slowly decreased and been replaced by foreigners, according to Sartor. At the time the decision was made, migrants and refugees made up 75 percent of the food bank’s 6,000 users, he says, whereas in 2015, 35 percent of customers were non-Germans.
Inquiries had moreover shown that older women in particular felt deterred by the large number of young, foreign men at the food bank. Some of the men showed “a lack of respect for women” and “when we unlocked the door in the morning, there was pushing and shoving regardless of grandmas in line,” Sartor said.
Essen’s Tafel Deutschland had long debated how to restore balance between locals and foreigners, reports WAZ.
In January 2017, for instance, the association decided that people over the age of 60 receiving social benefits such as Hartz IV, basic income or housing allowance may extend their food bank privileges for a further year. Prior to this time it was compulsory for them to take a one-year break after visiting the food bank for a year.
But many elderly people have not taken advantage of extending their visits and have instead opted out, according to the chairman.
Acknowledging the issue as a “hot topic,” Sartor predicted there would be uneasiness among the visitors once the decision was made. “Strangely enough, there hasn’t been any fuss.”
Tafel Deutschland spokesperson Stefanie Bresgott told The Local on Thursday that the food bank in Essen was the only location amongst over 930 food banks across the country with such a policy in place.
For the time being new customers at the food bank in Essen may only be Germans “until the scales are balanced again” between locals and foreigners, said Sartor.
The first Tafel Deutschland opened in Germany 25 years ago. Heavily reliant on volunteers, the group collects surplus food that would otherwise be discarded by supermarkets and other businesses to prepare and serve it to the poor.
*In an earlier version of this article, The Local incorrectly stated that the food bank in Essen was only catering to German citizens for the time being.