German Language Blog

German aid organization “Die Tafeln” Posted by on Jul 29, 2011 in Culture

I think it is important to touch upon social policy matters from time to time. Therefore, I would like to introduce you to the German aid organization “Die Tafeln”, which means well-laid table. Their slogan is: “Essen wo es hingehört” (food to where it belongs to).

Although Germany is one of the richest countries in the world the divide between rich and poor is getting larger and larger, though. This becomes especially apparent when it comes to adequate nutrition. Nowadays, people who live on social welfare in Germany have severe difficulties to buy enough food as the overall cost of living is quite high and people receive only a low predetermined monthly fee that amounts to about 360 Euros. This money is supposed to cover all ‘basic requirements’ of  everyday life (e.g. food, cosmetic products, household goods, clothing, detergents, electricity, and expenses for one’s leisure time). Lodging and utilities are paid extra.

Some say that this situation has developed because of the reforms to the German labor market in 2002, the Hartz concept, which was named after Peter Hartz, the head of the commission. Generally, there are two types of unemployment benefit in Germany: Arbeitslosengeld I (ALG I) and Arbeitslosengeld II (ALG II). ALG I is paid between one and two years after a person will lose his or her job. The exact period depends on the person’s age. The amount of the benefit accrues from the actual employee’s wage on a percentage basis. After this time, the Arbeitsamt (job center) will pay ALG II, which used to be – before the Hartz reforms – a particular percentage of the wage, too. However, after the Hartz reforms, the ALG II is not calculated on the basis of the actual wage, anymore. Now, ALG II is a fixed sum.

In order to help famine-stricken people volunteers have founded “Die Tafeln”. They collect food that has become nonmarketable, for example, in supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants and/or at fruit and vegetables retailers. Mostly, it is food that is shortly before the expiration date. Usually, shops donate food regularly.

The food is then ‘sold’ again in the shop of the “Tafel”. Actually, it is given away for free or for a token sum of about 1 Euro per shopping bag. A shopping bag is filled with all kinds of food: bread, yoghurt, fruits, vegetables, rice, pasta, etc.

This service is exclusively reserved for people who live on social welfare. In order to receive food people have to register for the service and prove their identity. This makes sure that only people in need use this service. Furthermore, these needy people are treated as customers. The registration guarantees that the “Tafel” will have enough food when they will come and get their weekly portion of food.

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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Mihir:

    This indeed is a very nice method of circulating food amongst the needy. I wonder how many people might be jobless in Germany as it is a developed country with a constantly decreasing population. Also, I would like to know about the efforts taken by the “Arbeitsamt” to eradicate unemployment in the first place.
    However, such a scheme would be very useful in poverty stricken countries.

  2. Peter Biggins:

    Really the word ‘Famine’ refers to places where people are literally starving to death eg in Africa. Our news organisations refer to ‘Famine stricken’ when showing film of dying children and dry river beds.
    The word ‘Needy’ is probably best here.