Key Benefits of the Food Card System
- Allows families to choose their own necessary and preferred products
- Reduces the workload of local government social workers and Food Bank staff
- Provides a more flexible and personalized way to access food aid
Social Protection Minister Signe Riisalo believes that the transition to the new food card system is a step towards improving people's coping mechanisms. She said, "Last year, the number of food aid recipients increased dramatically, and the food card system is one way to ensure essential assistance."
An Exciting Challenge for Rimi
Rimi CEO Vaido Padumäe sees the new system as an exciting challenge for the company. He said, "Helping those in need in cooperation with the Food Bank has always been important to Rimi. The upcoming collaboration with the government gives us the opportunity to contribute even more to society, reaching those who need support the most."
According to Tea Varrak, the Ministry of Social Affairs' Head of Social Sector Continuity, the food card system is an innovative solution throughout Europe. "Experiments have been made for the transition, but no country has yet fully switched to the food card system," she explained.
Empowering People with Choice
Varrak added "Until now, in cooperation with the Estonian Food Bank, we have distributed purchased food aid to those in need four times a year, mainly consisting of dry goods, canned foods, and other long-lasting products. With the new system, individuals can choose which food items they wish to purchase with the support they receive."
Each person will have €30 added to their food card quarterly. One card will be issued per family, with the household's total support amount credited. The support must be used within the quarter, and any remaining balance will not be carried over to the next quarter. The food card can only be used to purchase food and essential goods.
Varrak mentioned plans to transition to the food card system in other regions throughout the year. "A public procurement has been announced to cover other counties, and we are inviting companies with nationwide store networks to submit their offers," she said.
How to apply?
The list of food aid recipients is compiled based on applications for subsistence support and local government support. To apply for assistance, individuals must contact their local government's social worker, who will then assess their financial situation and, if eligible, register them for food aid and provide a food card through postal service or a social worker.
In addition to purchased food aid, donated food aid has also been distributed to people in need since 2019. Food banks collect and distribute this aid throughout the year. The target group includes individuals or households facing financial difficulties whose needs have been identified by local government social workers. Those eligible for donated food aid can receive it during the assessment month and the following three months. In cases of prolonged need,