In 2011 340,000 persons in Turkey live below 35 Euros (monthly income of US$185 for a four-person household)
A Profile of Food Banking in Turkey
Hunger is an important problem in our world today not only in poor and developing countries, but in the rich, developed nations as well. In Turkey, a middle-income country, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute:
340,000 persons in Turkey live below the hunger line (monthly income of US$185 for a four-person household)
12,750,000 below the poverty line (US$520 a month a four-person household).
GFN Board member Carlos Enrique Cavelier of Colombia tours the fook bank in Beyoglu with Ugur Uralacan of the Turkish Foodbanking Association.
Food banking all over the world plays an important role in the fight against hunger. Food banking is not exactly new to Turkey. Laws regarding food banking were passed in 2004 and the first food bank opened that very year. The law made it possible for all associations and foundations to set up food banks, provided that this is explicitly stated in their charters. Companies were allowed a 100% tax deduction for in-kind donations to food banks and they were exempted from the value added tax. Municipal governments were also authorized to set up their food banks in 2005.
As a group respecting traditional values and involved in various food businesses, we thought it particularly fitting that we should be involved in the founding of the Turkish FoodBanking Association (TFA),, said Serhan Suzer, TFA Board Chair, at the opening reception for the GFN Board of Directors who traveled to Istanbul to see first-hand food banking in Turkey.
Our objective as the TFA is to expand food banking in Turkey and make sure it is done according to certain operating standards and on a much larger scale. In countries where several food banks come together under umbrella organizations, food banking is done much more efficiently and operating standards are considerably higher. A nationally organized food banking network reaches more people, ensures that products go where they are most needed and, in times of natural disasters, such networks play a critical role in relief efforts.
Jeff Klein, GFN President and CEO, talked about the growing food bank movement in Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia. He shed a spotlight on the Egyptian Food Bank, which launched operations in 2006 to collect surplus food from catered events and hotels that would otherwise be wasted.
The food bank quickly grew and expanded its operations and is now a model service program recognized for its innovation and creativity in building and delivering effective programs designed to foster dignity and self-sustainability for the large amount of beneficiaries it supports. The food bank is beginning to consider how best to collaborate with GFN to promote the food banking model throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, said Klein.
A day before the reception, TFA was pressed into action as a major earthquake struck southeastern Turkey. Ugur Uralcan, Executive Director, said his phone was ringing constantly with donation offers to the affected areas. At present, donations from Metro, Nestlé and others have been shipped in collaboration with the food bank in Beyoglu. The major challenges faced by the victims of the earthquake in Van include the onset of winter and a need for emergency food, heaters, and winterized tents.
Separately, Ali Koca, Director of Social Welfare, and Ahmet Misbah Dermican, Beyoglu Mayor, led a tour for GFNs Board of Directors to the Social Market food bank, a joint project of the Beyoglu municipal government and the Turkish Red Crescent organization in August 2010 that was designed in a grocery store format where food items, clothing, and cleaning materials are offered to the needy.
It serves the 20,000 Beyoglu residents living below the poverty line. Their database holds detailed and up-to-date information on needy citizens, including their addresses and economic situation. Qualified applicants are given an electronic shopping card, which are credited with a specific amount of money by the Beyoglu municipality that administers the funding of the program.
TFAis working hard to expand its role as a coordinator and facilitator of activities across Turkey. TFA (www.gidabankaciligi.org) maintains most of the discussions with the major food and grocery companies and their dialogue has increased recently, in part attributed to more visible advocacy and the earthquake in Van where the network and various food banks have been working to provide food and miscellaneous assistance.
Carlos Enrique Cavelier Lozano, GFN Board Member from Colombia and CEO of Alquería, said he was impressed with the Social Market. It was truly a discovery. Customers walked in, checked their balances on their red cards filled with Turkish Lira that were given to the city sectors poorest residents to shop modern goods as if they were really in a supermarket, said Lozano, a major supporter of ABACO, the Colombian Association of Food Banks.
Local municipality-initiated food banks are fueled by a legislative initiative allowing companies a 100% tax deduction for product donations. Mayor Dermican has established via his budget the Social Market and fills it with food donations from companies that are beginning to understand and support this local food bank. Other municipalities around the country are starting to take advantage of the legislation to receive these donate products outside of the traditional commercial distribution channels.
Pat Tracy, GFN Board Chair, was impressed to witness first-hand the impact of GFN on food banking in Turkey. From an initial visit in 2004 by Founder Professor Aziz Akgül to Feeding America, through training courses at the GFN/H-E-B Food Bank Leadership Institute and site visits by GFN leadership, there are now over 60 food banks in Turkey. This includes a very active NGO in Konya that has mentored fellow food banks in Anatolia and provided emergency food assistance to African countries.
Concluding an eventful week, various GFN directors and officers joined TFA at an important event in its history, namely the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Turkish Franchising Association. I am excited about the potential of more food and grocery products for low-income people in Turkey living below the poverty line, said Ugur Uralcan.
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