A new report from the Fafo foundation shows a worrying increase in food poverty in Norway, with families with children and newly arrived refugees identified as particularly vulnerable. About 69 percent of food banks report increased demand since the covid crisis.
In the report, Mathjelp på Dugnad, researchers from the social science foundation Fafo conducted a nationwide survey of Norway’s food distribution program. The survey focused on the demand for food aid and how it has changed in recent years. It also looked at who collects food and why Norwegians need food assistance.
Researchers collected information from 200 food distribution centers and interviewed nearly 1,000 food recipients across the country. More than half of the recipients were families with children and new refugees in Norway, mainly from Ukraine and Syria. 69 percent of the food banks also report that more people are collecting food now than before the coronavirus crisis.
– We are used to thinking of poverty in Norway as a relative phenomenon. It means that you are worse off than others, but you still have the basics. The fact that there is an increase in the number of people who actually do not have enough to eat suggests that we may be seeing pockets of absolute poverty in Norway. That people lack the basics, says Tone Fløtten from Fafo, who is responsible for the report, told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK.
The report also shows that people with part-time or full-time jobs and families with children receive food parcels.
– These are groups that are not typically at high risk of poverty in Norway, she says.
No good childhood
Fløtten believes that the report highlights the need for broad measures in several policy areas to prevent the spread and persistence of poverty in Norway. This needs to be looked at within integration, housing, welfare and labour market policies, and all areas are important in reducing the problem.
– It’s challenging in many areas, and it’s clear that it’s particularly challenging that so many families with children collect food. It goes against what we think of as a good childhood and against the ideals of social equality in Norway, she says.
In Sweden as well, food poverty is on the rise, something that organizations like Stadsmissionen have warned about. Due to the increased need for food aid, the organization Ätbart has recently started to map all food banks in Sweden to make them easier to find.