– It’s absolutely horrible. I was very surprised and did not expect it from this government.
Today, Sven Martin Aase (69) is in the Salvation Army slum in Oslo. He doesn’t have a long way to go, but he doesn’t stop as often as before.
For over ten years he himself worked as a volunteer. For a while he was also in charge of the volunteer center.
Aase did everything he could, such as helping people who couldn’t get to the doctor or hospital on their own.
– It was important in those days, and it is still important today. There are many who don’t have a family who can help, says Aase.
Now he himself depends on help.
– It wouldn’t have worked otherwise.
The Salvation Army is one of the volunteer organizations that receives food from the Food Center. Now the government is proposing to cut Norwegian kroner 600,000 from support for the Food Center in next year’s budget.
– I was very annoyed. That money means a huge amount and will be felt here too.
Depending on the help
Irene Mathisen completely agrees that the food they get today means a lot. She is the daily manager of the slum station.
The government’s proposed cut of funds will mean that bags will be lighter and the individual will receive less food.
The Salvation Army does not have its own budget for purchasing food and depends on organizations such as the Food Center.
– It’s all so expensive. It will affect everywhere in many ways, he says Mathisen.
About 1,800 families and 1,015 children have registered in the slum. Also, there are many single people with no children, which is the largest group.
– This applies to minimum retirees, those who have disability insurance and those who need help covering expenses. The end user is always the one affected, unfortunately.
Aase liked being able to buy extra food before, but now he can’t.
– I must be very frugal. I am happy every time I come here and take a bag or two of food.
Aase has 950 NOK per week. She will go towards food, toiletries and clothes.
– I need a pair of shoes, it quickly costs a thousand crowns.
Much more vulnerable
At the Food Center, meals count, not money.
In Oslo, the Food Center receives around nine tons of food every day. This means around 18,000 meals. And that’s too little.
– We would have liked to save more vegetables, fruit and proteins. We get a lot of food, but we only get a third of what we need, says Cristiano Aubert, general manager of Matsentralen Oslo.
There are eight food centers in Norway and today they will collect a total of 350 tons of food worth around NOK 16 million.
– We are completely addicted to getting this food for free.
– That must be a mistake
Just over four in ten households have adopted austerity measures due to rising food prices, a new report from the Sifo Consumer Research Institute shows.
As prices rise, more people need food support. Per Christian Rålm is the general manager of Food Center Norway. He says Matserntralen will now have more responsibility for food distribution, with fewer resources.
– At first I thought it must be a mistake. It seems completely illogical to directly cut food support for the disadvantaged. It seems quite absurd, when we see increasing demand for food, he says and adds:
– Unfortunately, the welfare state does not catch the price increases that have come. What we see and experience is greater demand and many more people are in need of food assistance.
– It’s heartbreaking
Food poverty appears in the wake of the era of high prices. With one in twelve households having to pay for meals, visit food stations, or contact NAV for help paying for food, the report shows.
– We are facing a very hard winter or winters, says Rålm.
Aubert says he is experiencing a massive increase in poverty and anguish.
– The next thing is hunger. The parents take care of the meals and the children take the food. That’s how it is now. Forskjells-Norge has grown strong, she says.
– This should not happen in Norway, MDG spokesperson Arild Hermstad replies.
He would like to quote Prime Minister Jonas Garh Støre from 2017, when the Solberg government proposed cutting the food center.
– Then I’d say this is mean. I think it’s actually worse in 2022 to propose a cut, when more and more people have to choose between paying for electricity or buying food, than in 2017. It’s heartbreaking.
Rødt’s Storting representative, Mímir Kristjánsson, also reacts to funding cuts for the Food Center.
– I think it’s really embarrassing that we have a government that first travels and praises offers like the Food Center and wants to show that they take it seriously. Then cut subsidies to those who distribute food to hungry people in Norway.
Based on the economic situation, there were fixed priorities in this year’s budget, Agriculture and Food Minister Sandra Borch said in an email.
– Although the Food Center had a budget cut this year, the Food Center is still one of the organizations receiving the most support through this scheme from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food budget, he writes.
– People can’t stand it
Irene Mathisen has started planning what they will do if they receive less support. Although Oslo is lucky and gets it 150,000 NOK in support of the municipalitythey are not so lucky elsewhere.
– And not everyone necessarily has a nearby food center, he says.
Today there is fish on the menu. Cod can’t be frozen, so it has to go out today.
But it’s quieter than usual today at the slum station. It’s Social Security Day and tomorrow is payday.
Sven Martin Aase has been ill lately and doesn’t come to see him that often.
– It’s not so easy. But I hope it passes soon and I’ll be here a little while longer, he says
It is important to him that they keep the money the Food Center receives from the state, and preferably more.
– The most important thing for me is to be able to come here, have a chat and bring some food home and know that I have a place to come tomorrow, says Aase and adds:
– Cutting money to voluntary organizations is not good. I think they should start somewhere else.
Irene agrees and says it’s not the right time.
– It’s everyone’s turn, they say. We will have a more difficult time, they say. We can handle it, they say. But people can’t stand it. If you have a health spree, everything falls apart.