Serving up Groceries—and Solidarity—Across Greece
21 October 2020

When the lockdown was put in place in Greece a few months ago, the spotlight turned, understandably, to coronavirus patients, people on ventilators, and the doctors and nurses fighting on the medical front lines of the pandemic.

At the same time, an entirely different calamity, a quieter and more insidious one, was unfolding too. 

This crisis affected people who were already facing hardship before the outbreak of the pandemic, people who lost their jobs, who found themselves overnight without income, without the ability to meet their families’ basic needs.

Parallel to the acute health crisis, the pandemic has also brought with it a socioeconomic crisis. Though it is already causing deep pain for families, this crisis has not yet revealed its full extent. It has, however, revealed the power of solidarity, cooperation, and the simple recognition of our shared humanity.

Last April, when the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) announced its Global COVID-19 Relief Initiative, we saw a food crisis looming in Greece and abroad and determined that helping ensure access to food would be one of the initiative’s primary focuses.

In Greece, we turned to organizations with which the Foundation had effective partnerships in the past through our Initiative Against the Greek Crisis. One of these organizations was Boroume, which received substantial support from SNF when it was getting off the ground in 2012. Boroume aims to reduce food waste and fight hunger in Greece by saving food from donors and getting it, through charitable organizations, to people facing food insecurity. This model of redistribution allows Boroume to maximize how far each euro goes in getting food on plates. Over the years, it has created a number of programs as part of a holistic effort to eliminate food waste, from educational programs for the public and for students to saving and redistributing food from every part of the food chain.

As part of SNF’s recent grant, Boroume compiled a list of the 200 largest municipalities in Greece, covering 90% of the country’s population, through which they would work. Starting in September, they offered families in need vouchers for a regional supermarket chain. Within the first three weeks of the program, more than two-thirds of vouchers had been redeemed, indicating that they had been effective at reaching those who would benefit most.

By the end of December, the projects hopes to have reached 10,000 people with the vouchers. Among those served so far are unemployed people, older people, people with disabilities who are unable to support themselves, and large families.  

Complementing Boroume’s efforts is another SNF grant, also part of the relief initiative, to the Greek Association of Municipalities (KEDKE). In collaboration with Metro Super Market, 300 “social groceries” are providing legumes, pasta, oil, and baby food, among other staples, to thousands of people affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Collaboration across sectors—philanthropic, private, and public—can make a difference in how many people a relief effort is able to reach. And even small differences at the scale of systems can make a big difference at the scale of individuals. Solidarity and humanity are to be found in things as simple as a warm plate of food or a bag of groceries.