The answers determines the day’s routes. Schedules are tight: after a quick briefing, jobs are allocated and everyone heads out to check the transporters. Ready, set, go. Today, Ammelounx takes care of the METRO tour. Picking up food is quite different from his day job.
He has spent the past 20 years working in the fashion industry; in his previous position, he was the general manager of an Argentine fashion label. ‘There are plenty of beautiful things and expensive products involved, but it’s all very superficial. I was looking for a real contrast to that and I found it here.’ The work for the food bank is fulfilling for the 39-years-old. ‘I make good use of my free time here, giving back a little bit of my own good luck.’
As a driver, Ammelounx is responsible for deciding which products are delivered to the individual distribution centres. He always makes an effort to ensure that every centre receives a fair share of products, even though it involves extra work on his own part. All products must be checked carefully: the food bank regularly receives items that are not suitable for delivery, which obviously upsets Ammelounx.
A baker to look up to
The first stop on today’s tour is nothing like that. In the warm glow of the morning sun, Ammelounx’s van stops in front of Bäckerei Hinkel, a local bakery. He strides into the shop and Hinkel employee Stefan Beisenherz welcomes him cheerfully. The air smells like freshly baked bread rolls; it is warm and noisy inside. Bäckerei Hinkel is a traditional Düsseldorf establishment that has been working with the food bank from the day it opened.
Tafel Düsseldorf e.V.
Nobody leaves our shop empty-handed. We like to make sure that everything is used up.Stefan Beisenherz, Bäckerei Hinkel
A partnership to eliminate waste
The next stop on the tour is METRO. Ammelounx comments: ‘We are glad to be working with this partner.’ The wholesale product range is full of surprises: ‘At some point, we got black tomatoes. The whole delivery team was quite baffled! And we occasionally get unusually sized items, such as massive sausages or whole cheese rounds.’ After parking his van at a loading bay, he meets Niclas Seithümmer of METRO Germany. They open the rolling shutter expertly: these men have no time to waste. Seithümmer, who started his vocational training with METRO in 2016 and now works in the dairy department, knows the goods issue process inside out.Seithümmer explains: ‘There are very strict regulations, both external and internal, governing what can be sold for how long.’ Any items that are still perfectly good to eat but no longer fit for sale go to the food bank. Apart from dairy products like cheese, METRO also supplies the food bank with delicatessen products, cold cuts and fresh fruit and vegetables. ‘I’m glad that we can do some good.’ At the same time, METRO continuously works on reducing its surpluses.
If it weren’t for the food banks, a lot of elaborately produced foods would go to waste.Jochen Schmitz, Manager at METRO Germany
Distribution with heart – and a slide rule
Ammelounx‘ colleagues are already busy unloading goods at the car park in front of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Church. Inside, the church is buzzing with activity, but there is also an atmosphere of quiet reflection. 2 rows of tables, each about 40 metres long, are covered with food products, all sorted according to a strict system. The helper in charge of baked goods looks over today’s bounty: she calculates, sorts the items, recalculates and packs bags. ‘It’s only a good day when everyone gets their share.’
Burkhard Schellenberg, who has run the food bank in Garath for the past decade, remembers that it used to be frequented primarily by elderly people. ‘These days, we get people of all ages. Around 60% of those who come to my food bank are refugees.’ The food bank was forced to stop accepting new users as demand surged about 5 years ago. Today, it supplies food to around 8000 people, each of them can pick up a bag once every 14 days. If a user misses 3 pick-up days without giving any reasons, they are removed from the database. This may sound harsh, but it is a necessary measure to ensure that others get a fair chance. The rules are transparent and available in at least 4 languages. Additional day vouchers ensure that nobody is sent away empty-handed.
Additionally the food bank also organises cooking classes to teach its users what to do with the food they are given. Schellenberg says: ‘We experience extraordinary gratitude here. It makes all the hard work, time and responsibility worth it.’ Speaking of time: for Ammelounx, it is time to take the van back to the head office.
Every day is different, but the goal remains the same
At the end of the collection trip, all volunteers meet for lunch – right where they started in the morning: in the kitchen. Ammelounx praises Andrea Schütze’s cooking: ‘It always tastes amazing.’ Every day is different, but the goal never changes: to feed the poor of Düsseldorf. Our reporter is deeply impressed by the commitment of the volunteers and the clear sense of a win-win situation for everyone. Then she wonders: what’s for lunch today? The answer: whatever concoction can be conjured up from the leftovers in the fridge.