The Finns had breakfast on Friday stunned by the images of a queue for free food of more than one kilometer, which went around a block of buildings in Tampere, one of the main cities of the country.
Before the coronavirus crisis, some 70 retirees went every day to the Red Cross (Suomen Punainen Risti) to collect food, but now there are many more and among them there are young people, families with children and even entrepreneurs, according to the Tampere-based newspaper Aamulehti.
Finland is supposedly one of the richest and most prosperous countries in the world. Maybe that's why the images of dozens of people perfectly lined up on the sidewalk, patiently waiting their turn to receive their portions and maintaining a safe distance with an almost religious discipline, have left many speechless and made headlines in the local media, which reported on the issue extensively with images and videos.
The issue of food queues, for example in Helsinki's Kallio neighborhood, has been the subject of debate on social media from time to time. On Friday, the public broadcasting service (Yle) also reported on the matter in Tampere, as the length of its queue has broken records.
Longer queues since spring
The director of the Red Cross in Tampere, Marjo Majlund, told local newspaper Aamulehti that since the worst moments of the coronavirus crisis last spring, the queues in the largest inland city in all of Scandinavia have been even longer than in the capital city.
The Finnish Red Cross distributes food packages to people of all backgrounds without demanding any explanations. "We do not ask people why they need to pick up food, but their clothing communicates something about all of them. Many of the new applicants have clearly been a pretty good financial position before the coronavirus and have managed with their salaries," Majlund says.
"Now the range of applicants is much more diverse. There are also young people, families with children and possibly also small entrepreneurs."
Funds running out
The Red Cross also delivers food packages to children under 15 if they say that their father or mother has sent them to collect it.
Those in charge of the Red Cross lament that funds are running out and with it their ability to continue distributing food to the poor in Finland. "We have enough money to last until November," says Majlund. After this period, the NGO will only be able to distribute food that is left over from schools or from private donations, for example local companies.
Local authorities and NGOs say they are concerned about what may happen this fall, especially if the crisis worsens due to a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.