Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, over 400 of the 948 local Tafel food banks and pantries in Germany were forced to temporarily close their doors. It has been the greatest challenge the Tafel organization had faced since it was founded 27 years ago. Before the crisis, 1.6 million people regularly visited their local Tafel. For many people, it is far more than just a food pantry. It is a place to meet and socialize, a community space central to the lives of many of our beneficiaries.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tafel organization found itself facing many different challenges: to ensure the safety of both volunteers and service users, we had to devise and implement new strategies for distributing food. 90% of Tafel’s 60,000 active volunteers are older people and therefore considered to be in a vulnerable group, meaning that many Tafel food banks had a sudden lack of volunteers. In addition, the amount of food donations fell drastically in some regions as a result of panic buying. At the same time, the Tafel were trying to get their services up and running again as quickly as possible so they could continue supporting people in need.
Our volunteers have been working tirelessly, sometimes day and night on end, to find solutions. The support that Tafel received in the first few weeks and months after the coronavirus outbreak was therefore all the more urgent and all the more overwhelming. It is only thanks to this support that Tafel food banks and pantries were able to reorganize their services in such a short amount of time and develop food distribution strategies that adequately ensure the safety of everyone involved. Lots of young people signed up to volunteer at their local Tafel and got involved straight away.
Thanks to this rapid response, which is also partly a result of your support, Tafel food banks were able to:
- Set up delivery services so that Tafel can continue to support people in need, particularly older people. To do this, some Tafel food banks had to purchase new vehicles,which led to an increase in fuel costs. Other Tafel food banks organized a bicycle delivery service.
- Purchase bags, sunshades and canopy tents, enabling them to distribute food outdoors.
- Implement new hygiene measures on site. Some Tafel food banks had to move to new premises as it was not possible to observe social distancing measures in their old buildings.
- Purchase protective screens, hand sanitizer, masks and other protective equipment.
- Cover their ongoing costs, e.g. rent and utilities.
The winter will bring new challenges for the Tafel. For example, we will need to adapt our operations to ensure we can keep distributing food regardless of the weather. We will also need to expand our delivery services so that we can respond quickly to the new lockdown measures.