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The Netherlands is one of the richest nations. Why are families lining up for food?

“There is a long list of things we need to do to challenge that cost-of-living crisis,” he told reporters at a campaign event. “We will make the primary necessities of life affordable,” his party’s manifesto says, with measures including reforming taxation and welfare rules to give people more disposable income.

The centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, or VVD, of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte – traditionally seen as a party for the wealthy and a supporter of the free-market economy – is also pledging to help.

In Leidschendam-Voorburg, a town of some 78,000 residents, 250 families are relying on the food bank.

“To make sure people who work full time can make ends meet, we will raise the minimum wage,” the party’s manifesto pledges. “To tackle childhood poverty, we will give targeted support to families with children.”

Underscoring how the issue cuts across traditional party lines, a centre-left two-party bloc led by former European Union climate chief Frans Timmermans proposes some of the same solutions. It advocates raising the Dutch minimum wage to €16 ($26) per hour. For employees aged over 21 years, the current minimum is €12.79 per hour for a 36-hour work week.

For some workers and for others living on welfare benefits, that is not enough.

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The national umbrella organisation for 176 Dutch food banks says they serve a total of 38,000 households – 100,000 people – each week and that 1.2 million people live below the poverty line. The number is down slightly from a year ago when inflation was soaring in the Netherlands and across the world.

Just 18 months ago, the food bank in Leidschendam-Voorburg, a municipality of some 78,000 people that recently ranked fifth in a survey of the most “liveable” towns in the Netherlands, had 140 clients. That shot up to 250 as a cost-of-living crisis swept across the world and did not spare the wealthy in the Netherlands. Those 250 households amount to up to 700 people, Kuipers said.

The true number of people on the breadline may be much higher. At the Leidschendam-Voorburg food bank, Kuipers estimates the true number of people eligible for food aid could be two to three times higher.

Now he is waiting to see how the election plays out and the new constellation of parties joining forces to run the country.

Party programs “are full of beautiful words and relatively few precise actions”, he said.

He’s watching to see “how those beautiful words will be translated into concrete actions” after the election.

AP

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