Food bank 68: expanding to better feed

“Normally, we shouldn’t be here anymore, admits the president of the Haut-Rhin Food Bank, Fernand Clauss. In the best of all possible worlds, there would be no more poor, or hungry people. But unfortunately, we see exactly the opposite. “ So, to accomplish its mission, recover unsold products in stores in order to redistribute them through charitable associations, the association had to reorganize, on the model of a real business.

The Food Bank now occupies the entire building, from 9 to 11 Gluck alley in Mulhouse / © Xavier Ganaye - France Télévisions
The Food Bank now occupies the entire building, from 9 to 11 Gluck alley in Mulhouse / © Xavier Ganaye – France Télévisions

In recent months, thanks to the support of the city of Mulhouse, the association has been able to acquire the second half of the building it already partially occupied, allée Gluck. Now, it has two parking lots (one at each end of the building), which completely separates arrivals and storage of “fresh” (fruit and vegetables, dairy products, etc.) from those of “dry” (products long shelf life). “It was really necessary, specifies Fernand Clauss, to manage the 2,600 tonnes of equipment we deliver each year. “

Fresh food arrives on one side of the building

On the “fresh” side, the Bank’s seven refrigerated trucks come and go. They search for and bring their batches of products harvested daily from department stores: yogurt, cheese, fruit, vegetables, bread … As soon as they are unloaded, everything is immediately noted on the computer: “Each jar of cream, each cheese, each yogurt must be listed, in connection with its store of provenance”says Blanche Ull, one of the volunteers. This in order to be able to send tax receipts to donor stores afterwards.

As soon as they arrive, the products are immediately listed on the computer / © Xavier Ganaye - France Télévisions
As soon as they arrive, the products are immediately listed on the computer / © Xavier Ganaye – France Télévisions

Eggs, cured meats and dairy products are stored in refrigerators, fruits, vegetables and baked goods are sorted and stored in premises at 12 °. Frozen products (mainly steaks and chicken drumsticks from France and Europe) are placed in four large freezers.

From the end of the morning, from the list of daily starters, the computer proposes a distribution of products between the beneficiary associations – in proportion to the number of people and families with which each association takes care. Then the volunteers prepare the “packages” accordingly.

“Dry” groceries arrive on the other side

At the other end of the building, the unloading place is reserved for the four trucks which seek and bring the “dry”. There too, the tours are daily. “To sum up: if we don’t go looking for these products, they end up in the trash”, explains Pierre Frantz, volunteer conveyor driver.

These are often unsaleable products (cereals, coffee, pasta, etc.) due to damaged packaging. Hence the immediate intervention of sorting teams. “You have to check each product, says another volunteer, Rose-Marie Wieser. If the outer carton is damaged or torn, it is re-glued. If it’s dirty, we wash it. “ However, as soon as the inner packaging is damaged, everything is discarded: “When you go to a store, recalls Rose-Marie Wieser, you don’t buy anything dirty or open. It’s the same for our beneficiaries. “ All products are sorted by categories and stored. Then, there too, according to the lists concocted by the computer, the volunteers immediately prepare the orders for the day.

Storage of
Storage of “dry” products now separated from fresh products / © Xavier Ganaye – France Télévisions

2,600 tonnes of food managed in 2019

In recent years, by prospecting with department stores in the department, the Food Bank has managed to obtain a ton of additional products. This was necessary, since the annual collection at the end of November (209 tonnes of food harvested in the Haut-Rhin in 2019) constitutes less than 10% of the annual needs.

“The Haut-Rhin Food Bank is among the top ten banks in France for the quality of its organization and the tonnage of food collected”
– Fernand Clauss

The Haut-Rhin Food Bank operates thanks to the very active commitment of more than 150 volunteers – there are 30 to 35 each day. To send food to people in need, the Bank does not distribute directly, but uses intermediaries: around a hundred associations, CCAS (communal social action centers) and solidarity grocery stores, which provide distribution to beneficiaries, families and single people. Each year, the action of the Food Bank makes it possible to provide more than five million meals in the Haut-Rhin.

Fresh products prepared to be sought by associations / © Xavier Ganaye - France Télévisions
Fresh products prepared to be sought by associations / © Xavier Ganaye – France Télévisions

According to a pre-established weekly schedule, most of these associations come directly to collect their order for fresh and dry products from the Bank. Thirty of them prefer to be delivered, in exchange for a small financial contribution, which allows the Bank to finance a few additional tankers for its trucks.

Indeed, the eleven trucks of the Bank (including seven refrigerated) which crisscross five days a week the roads of the department are expensive, but remain an essential tool. And despite the aid from the State, the department and certain municipalities, the finances of the Food Bank are still fragile.

“Other municipalities could help us more, and not just say: We have no poor people in our village, so we are not concerned.”
– Fernand Clauss

This period of electoral campaign is therefore also an opportunity to launch an appeal to future mayors and municipal councilors: “120 municipalities out of the 377 in the department support us, but that is not enough, explains Fernand Clauss. Others really should get their hands on the wallet. ” Indeed, the action of the Food Bank benefits the entire department, because, its president notes, precariousness extends: “There are a lot of people who had money, and lost everything. You can never say that you will not be affected. “ But Fernand Clauss also has a message for the municipalities that support the association, often for a long time: “To those who already give, and give a lot, a big thank you. And keep it up!”