in the middle
Status: 11/29/2021 2:58 p.m.
The town of Kusel in Rhineland-Palatinate seems far removed from the developments in the world economy. But the direct consequences can also be felt here: The steep rise in inflation is making life difficult for more and more people.
In the morning around 9 o’clock there is already a lot going on at the table in Kusel. At the entrance to the village, the non-profit association has its acceptance point in a warehouse – between a clothing discounter and an auto parts store. Several volunteers sort donations from supermarkets in the region here. It is food that is left over or is about to expire. 1.5 tons of food come together here every month.
The helpers put bread, cold cuts or yoghurt in boxes with the names of the recipients on them. It has to be done quickly, because the needy will come in a few hours. “The work is great fun. I am very happy to help,” says Gunde Jung as she puts salads in the stairs. “But poverty has increased. We see that here every day.”
Living at the subsistence level
Singles and single mothers are particularly affected, adds Jung’s colleague Ingrid Becker. “That has always been the case. The number of our customers has increased significantly in the past four or five months.” The needy used to come every two weeks. Now they would stand in front of the blackboard every seven days. “That is due to the circumstances,” says Ute Hess, who transports the individual boxes on a trolley to the distribution point. “The prices have risen enormously in some cases. We’re the last chance people have to get something.” In total, more than 500 people are supported with food on this board.
In the adjoining room, Wolfram Schreiner puts the filled food boxes on the shelves for collection. He, too, is watching rising inflation with growing concern: “For people with a budget of 400 euros a month, an increase in food prices of 30 or 40 euros is an enormous problem,” he says. “With us, customers pay three euros for a pallet of food. Even that can no longer be financed for many. You write to us.”
According to Schreiner, life on the subsistence level is becoming unaffordable for many due to inflation. Now that food has also risen drastically in some cases, the desires of those in need have also changed. “They are now asking more about basic foodstuffs such as flour, oil, butter. ‘Don’t you have this and that?’ You just notice that people need that. That has changed a lot recently. “
Wolfram Schreiner notices that the demand for the blackboard has increased in the past few months.
Photo: ARD Axel John
Refueling: Luxury for commuters
It is only a few steps from the table to the main road that connects Kusel with other towns in the region. Here Jennifer Knobloch is on her way to work in her car. Today the 32-year-old is cleaning the Protestant parish hall. Otherwise she also works in a shoe shop.
It is an example of how inflation has meanwhile also reached the middle class: “When I fill up the tank and see how the money is going away, then fuel is pure luxury for me. I’m already calculating: How long do I have to go to work?” only to finance refueling, “complains the commuter.
Price increases are driving concerns about the future
Your significant other is also employed. He works as a civil engineer. Although both earn money, there is less and less left for her and her two children at the end of the month – mainly because of the rising fuel prices. But Knobloch desperately needs her car for both of her jobs.
This applies to many in the region around Kusel: without a car, no work. Many have to drive to Kaiserslautern, Ludwigshafen and even Mainz, which is an hour and a half away, to work. For many in the rural region, fuel prices are increasingly becoming a financial feat.
But Knobloch is not only worried about fuel prices: when cleaning the parish office, she thinks about fundamental issues – even though her husband also makes money. “How will it be for my children ten or 15 years from now, when they grow up? Will they ever be able to afford anything? Can they build a house one day? As a mom, you’re really scared of it.”
“At some point the reserves will also be gone”
The fire brigade’s operations center is also located near the parish hall. Bettina Heintz works here on a voluntary basis. Before the corona crisis, the 43-year-old had a job as a medical specialist. When the older customers stayed at home during the lockdown and afterwards for fear of infection, she lost her job. “I can’t just sit around at home. That’s why I support the fire brigade and keep the headquarters in good shape,” she says. “With only one income and the ever-increasing prices, it’s really difficult.”
Her husband works for the fire department and has a fixed salary. “At some point, however, the reserves will also be gone. You then have to calculate – from two salaries to one salary. Nothing should be broken now.” The couple is currently looking at the dishwasher with concern. “We don’t know how long it will last. It already has its quirks. But 400 euros for a new machine are not included. Now you can say: ‘Then wash with your hand.’ We do that more often. But then there is the higher bill for more water. No matter how you do it, it gets more expensive. ”
In the face of rising inflation, she feels helpless, complains Heintz. For the first time, their anticipation for Christmas is clouded. “The family, the togetherness, that goes under because there is too much behind it. I’m worried about the future.” The festival will be smaller than the years before. “It starts with the gifts and continues through to dinner. It’s no fun like that.”
Bettina Heintz lost her job in the corona crisis. Now she volunteers to help out with the fire brigade.
Photo: ARD Axel John
“It will get worse”
In the afternoon a long line formed in front of the table. “We normally open at 4.30 pm. The first ones come an hour and a half earlier. They are afraid that it won’t be enough for them,” says Ingrid Becker. Because of the Corona requirements, the helpers hand out the groceries outside in the courtyard. For the film contribution in the daily topics but nobody wants to talk in front of the camera about the consequences of inflation. Some talk about their shame and insecurity.
When asked about the future and the topic of inflation, Wolfram Schreiner finds clear words. “I keep getting new e-mails in which people write to me about their needs. It will get even worse. People join them almost every week. I don’t see how it could be improved. I don’t have the imagination for it – I’m telling you that in all honesty. “
The worries about the future are growing. Politicians and some economic researchers promise that the high inflation will only be temporary. But what if not? More and more people in Kusel are asking themselves this question – and probably far beyond.