Germany is considered a rich country, a country of the middle class. But the pandemic has also left its mark here. In 2021, 13.8 million people in this country were already considered poor. A rapid increase – and long before the outbreak of the Ukraine war. Rising inflation has made things worse. A journey through an unsettled republic. Part 2.

This is felt, for example, by the food banks in the country, who hardly know how to take care of all those in need. For example in Berlin-Steglitz.

There, in the community center behind St. Matthew’s Church, the table of loaf and soul opened this afternoon.

People with empty shopping trolleys and plastic bags crowd the inner courtyard. Men and women, from young to old, stand in line next to the wall of the house. Here they have shade and do not have to wait in the blazing sun.

It was Klaus Bräuer’s turn. The 66-year-old comes here almost every Thursday. He retired three years ago. But because that is hardly enough to live on, he also receives basic security. But even with that he barely makes ends meet. He tries to get by as long as possible with the food he gets at the table. But that is becoming increasingly difficult. “Even if the Tafel is no substitute for the supermarket: there used to be two bags, now you only get one, sometimes only half.” He has to do without meat more and more often. This is rarely the case with the board. And: “It’s no longer possible to pay for it in the supermarket.” Bräuer is concerned that the food bank’s range will become even scarcer if prices continue to rise. “Then it gets really bad.”

Eva-Maria Stöck, who runs the issuing office in Steglitz, fears the same thing. For weeks she has been getting less and less food, while the need is growing.

Her team is currently caring for 600 people from 180 households. That’s about 60 more than at the beginning of the year. “Four weeks ago we even supplied 240 households. I only saw people in the yard.” Among the new customers are many Ukrainian refugees, pensioners and single parents, but also people who can no longer make it on their own due to rising prices. Ms. Stöck believes that there will be even more.

The 68-year-old can barely get by with her pension. Like her customers, she can take a bag of groceries with her for a fee of two euros. “Two years ago you could still get them for one euro,” says Stöck. Then came Corona, inflation. Both times the fee increased by 50 cents. And although those in need pay more, spending is rationed. “The supermarkets also calculate differently,” says Stöck. Due to the price increases, people would buy less and the markets would order less. “There isn’t much left for us then.” Five distribution points in Berlin therefore only open every 14 days. “If things continue like this, we will too,” says Stöck. She is no longer accepting new registrations.

And the financial situation of many Germans is likely to worsen further. Consumers have to reckon with surcharges, especially for gas. “The consequences of the current gas shortage have not yet reached consumers,” says Klaus Müller, head of the Federal Network Agency. The additional burden for families is in the thousands. Not once, but permanently. Even if there is no gas emergency and there is no need for rationing, prices remain high. “We will be more dependent on liquid gas, and that costs money,” says Müller. His prognosis: “Some people will not be able to pay their gas bills. We are threatened with gas poverty.”

Marc Sandmann has already received a rent increase due to rising electricity and gas costs. “Although only around ten euros,” he says. But the price increases in everyday life add up. Especially when, like him, you have to get by on little money as a student. Sandmann, 21, is in his fifth semester studying business psychology at the university in Emden-Leer. His parents support him with 650 euros a month.

But rent, food, a mobile phone contract and other costs such as semester fees, books or laptops cannot be covered with this. He also earns 400 euros.

Nevertheless, he has to make compromises.

So he looks in the supermarket to see which products are currently cheap. “I’ll switch to that.” In the case of vegetables, that’s peppers. He also goes to the canteen more often. Saving on food is easier for him than limiting his free time. Nevertheless, he keeps having to cancel appointments: “It’s not so often to have a drink with my friends anymore.” He suspects that others feel the same way as he does. “Saying that is embarrassing for many.”

One in five people nationwide is already overdrawing their account due to rising prices. Among the 25- to 34-year-olds, even every third person is in the overdraft facility. Sandmann would have hoped for more from the federal government. “For politicians, students are often only those who receive BAföG. This only applies to about ten percent.”

The federal government recently introduced a flat-rate energy price. But only employees get it. Students are left out, as are pensioners.