More than 13,500 families, including 13,000 children, are currently depending on food banks for their meals, Volunteerism Commissioner Yiannis Yiannaki said on Friday.
According to the latest figures, March saw an additional 300 families applying for aid and the number is expected to soar even further in April.
Yiannaki said that the growing level of unemployment which has reached 17% is making its mark as an increasing number of families are resorting to food banks and other charities to survive from one day to the next.
The commissioner called on the public to contribute in any way they can in order to provide those in need with basic goods in light of the Easter holidays.
Food and other items can be delivered to food banks, charities and the church, he noted.
“For Easter we are trying to enrich the parcels with additional food items such as more meat, chocolate eggs and so forth in order to give these families a traditional Easter.”
In order to streamline their work and reach as many families as possible, the volunteer organisations will soon be moving forward with the implementation of a single application form for all food banks, in collaboration with the Data Protection Commissioner.
The new form will protect the personal information of applicants and will also help the organisations to familiarise themselves with the applicants’ needs in order to provide better assistance.
Also, the criteria for help will be the same for all organisations to ensure that the food banks are helping those in true need and that there is a homogenous procedure both in terms of selection criteria and the approval of applications, Yiannaki said.
The Volunteerism Commissioner said that a platform is also being prepared so that all the organisations who wish to join can have electronic access to check whether an applicant is already receiving help from another charity or food bank.
“This will help avoid the phenomenon where people receive help from two or three charities, as there have unfortunately been and still are such cases,” Yiannaki said.
The new system will provide constant updates on the precise number of applicants, their place of origin, family status and other information that will allow the charities to draw conclusions and take all necessary measures.
Commenting on the ability of the food banks to cope with the increasing number of needy families, Yiannaki said that “although the situation is difficult, so far all organisations are responding successfully to the needs and are providing continuous help to our fellow-citizens”.
He also praised the contribution of the private sector and especially companies which give to the cause on a regular basis and stressed that the big bet is to continue providing help to those in need.
“These are difficult times but we believe we can do it. We really do not have another choice. We must succeed and we will.”