Monday, April 12, 2010

Iceland's new poor line up for food

The crisis that brought down Iceland's economy in late 2008 threw thousands of formerly well-off families into poverty, forcing people like Iris to turn to charity to survive.

Each week, up to 550 families queue up at a small white brick warehouse in Reykjavik to receive free food from the Icelandic Aid to Families organisation, three times more than before the crisis.

Icelanders who lose their job are initially entitled to benefits worth 70 per cent of their wages - but the amount dwindles fast the longer they are without work. Coupled with growing debt, the spike in long-term unemployment is taking a heavy toll.

"The 550 families we welcome here represent about 2,700 people, and the number keeps going up. And we think it will keep growing until next year, at least," said Asgerdur Jona Flosadottir, who manages the Reykjavik food bank