Even before the arrival of the trucks from the local association Abribus, several dozen of them are already waiting in a line on the promenade of the station, not far from the Christmas market which is in full swing in the old town. Singles, but also women, some with strollers, and some children.
It’s cold, -1°C according to the neon sign of the nearby pharmacy, but that won’t discourage them. When the truck finally arrives, the volunteers are busy setting up the wooden tables and starting the distribution. On the Saturday evening menu, soup, rice with vegetable and ground beef sauce, grapes, cookies.
“I’m coming the second time,” says Vicky, wrapped in a long black scarf and not wanting to give her last name. At 29 years old, this temporary worker cleans in hotels, an activity that brings her irregular income.
“I didn’t earn much this month, about 700 euros, I was a little sick. I can’t manage with my salary. Food is increasing, oil costs three and a couple euros, you have to buy in batches to make it cheaper. There is price abuse,” says this mother of two young twins.
Behind her, Clarissa, also 29 years old, is waiting her turn. This Bulgarian woman has learned to forget herself when she goes shopping: “I only buy for my children”, aged 6 months and 7 years, she announces. “Everything is expensive, especially diapers.”
So, when she found out about the existence of this food distribution, she didn’t hesitate for long. “With the distribution, I try to make two meals. It helps me a lot,” she says, grateful.
In front of an old fire truck converted into a mobile canteen, Abribus members serve portions on a chain, so everyone can eat hot.
“This year we have an average of about 600 meals, it is exploding. We have reached 800” per day, explains Pauline Chaignaud, treasurer of the association. “Since October, we have distributed meals during the entire winter season, as we did two years ago,” which lasts until April. “This is the first time we are faced with such a need”.
The user profile has evolved: originally intended for people living on the streets, distributions now attract a diverse population. “We have people in hostels, but also others who work, who cannot make ends meet and who, when the electricity bill arrives, try to survive as best they can,” emphasizes Vincent Galuzo, 50, who has been volunteering for three years. .
The association does not keep statistics, but believes that the increase in requests is related to several factors: the increase in insecurity after the health crisis, the arrival of Ukrainians displaced by the war and inflation.
The phenomenon is widespread. Restos du Coeur is supporting 27,000 people in the department this winter, 15% more than last year. “At the same time, we are losing volunteers, who are affected by the price of gasoline and can no longer move,” explains Patrick Gruber, department manager.
Same observation with Secours Populaire. “We have never had so many people asking for food aid,” says Camille Vega, director of the Bas-Rhin association. “We made additional distribution because we were at the point of saturation, people had to wait five to six weeks for it to pass, that was no longer possible”.
The situation is all the more worrying because the winter campaign is just starting, and the emergency accommodation is full. “That’s where we reach our maximum capacity. If we reach 1,000 people per tour, it will no longer be feasible,” admits Barbara Reutenauer, from Abribus. “Associations are there to make up for the shortcomings of the state and communities, but they have to react.”