“Pasta, yellow peas, fish preserves, oatmeal, three-grain porridge, semolina porridge, puree powder, and egg powder,” the contents of food packages are listed by Marija, who is met by Latvian Radio at Patversmes Street, in Sarkandaugava, where one of the handouts of Latvian Red Cross food packages is located. Marija says she is currently staying in a women's shelter, so her survival is more complicated by rising food prices than heating charges.
"Since I don't live in a personal apartment right now, I don't feel the cost of utilities, but I feel the rise in food prices. The same buckwheat I love to buy is very expensive right now. I have a second-group disability and I get a benefit, but alone I can't rent an apartment, even if it is €200. I can get by, but I can't save for rent at once, for example, €400 a month. It means giving away all the money and nothing left," Marija said.
Latvian Radio also meets Lena, who has also come for food packages.
"It's always been difficult to survive, and it's complicated now, too. But we haven't seen the new heating bills yet and whether anything will be compensated, because the increase in electricity has so far been covered by social service. But food packages have always helped, without them, it would be difficult. There was buckwheat only once, but since spring, buckwheat is no longer there, and there are fewer preserved meats. Well, I survive somehow. At least the poor have the doctor for free, but again there are very expensive medicines. And of course, prices have now grown for all essential foods, like eggs and milk, and I only have a pension of €142," said Lena.
Maija Leipciga, executive director of the Latvian Red Cross Riga Committee, operates a total of five food parcel handouts in Riga. She said that until now, poor or disadvantaged households each received two packages of food and one of hygiene products in three months.
"Cabinet regulations have been adopted, which stipulate that once every three months, one additional pack of food is due for each person. In other words, not two packages for three months but three packages for three months. That regards food. Hygiene packages remain the same. We also give children stationery once a year, depending on age, and also children's hygiene products and children's food. There is also a one-off campaign in the Red Cross at the moment, in which we give pet food to these people," Leipciga said.
She observed that more people in Latvia's society as a whole have become in need of help this year, and more younger people are showing up. “I cannot say in exact numbers, but intuitively, and seeing what is happening in parcel distribution places, I think more people have obtained poor or low-income status, in terms of what is happening in society, energy crisis, etc.”
Throughout Latvia, non-governmental and religious organizations, as well as local government social services, provide additional food parcel handouts in 446 places. Food packages are available on presentation of a valid statement issued by the local government social service on the status of a poor or low-income household (with income of EUR 327 for the first or only person in the household, and for each of the following persons EUR 229).